PET ADVICE: Pearly Whites…It’s not just about appearance!

When you can barely stand to be in the same room with your cat and dog because his breath could knock you out, it’s time to get him to the vet! Actually, it is past time. When a dog’s breath smells like he got into the garbage can one time too many or your kitty smells like she was eating week-old road kill, it is quite possible he or she is suffering from periodontal disease and needs to be seen by the vet promptly. This is the most commonly diagnosed problem in both dogs and cats.

Left alone, periodontal disease can progress from plaque to tartar to gingivitis and worse. As the situation worsens, the infection can eventually erode the bony tooth socket as the tissues surrounding the teeth are destroyed. This can lead to damage to internal organs and possibly death. Additionally, it is very painful for your pet and can be quite costly to you.

Dr. Larry Corry, President of the American Veterinary Medical Association, recognizes that many people don’t even realize that dental health is important to their pets. That’s why setting aside February as Pet Dental Health Month is such a good idea.

The key is prevention and there are a few things you, as a pet owner, can do.

  1. Diet – avoid feeding your pet soft foods. Ask your vet for recommendations for foods specifically formulated for dental health.
  2. Tooth-conditioning treats and chew toys. Make sure to stick to rawhide, nylon and rubber chew toys that are toxic-free. You don’t want to avoid one problem by introducing your pet to another one!
  3. Brushing. It is important to brush your dog’s and/or cat’s teeth at least 2 – 3 times a week.
  4. Regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your veterinarian will tell you if plaque or tartar is starting to form and may advise dental cleaning. This is done under general anesthesia and is costly, so it’s best to focus on the above 3 points to avoid this.

It is always easiest to acclimate your pet to having his teeth brushed when you start when he is young. But even if you missed that opportunity, there are ways to introduce him to the process, and even look forward to it, if done correctly. By making it an enjoyable experience for your pet, you’ll set the stage for a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums. Ask your vet to instruct you on ways of easing your pet into the teeth-brushing routine.

Choose a brush that is the right size for your pet. Finger brushes slip over the tip of your finger and have pliable rubber bumps that work well for cats, puppies and small dogs. If you prefer a handled toothbrush, the C.E.T. Dual-Ended Toothbrush for dogs and cats features a long handle with different sized brushes on each end suitable for large and small surfaces. You can also clean your pet’s teeth and gums simply by using a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger.

Do not use toothpaste designed for humans! Since they will not spit out the toothpaste, as people do, it is important to use toothpaste that is safe to swallow. Besides, your cat or dog is going to prefer chicken-flavored to peppermint! Oral gels and sprays are also available to help maintain your pet’s oral health.

By doing you can to prevent periodontal disease in your pet, you will reap the benefits of having your dog or cat live a longer and healthier life. Isn’t a little inconvenience worth that extra tail wag and purring head butt?

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