As some of you may already know, February is Pet Dental Month. Because dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem in pets, veterinarians and pet health groups have gotten together to increase awareness. The more aware people are of this disease, the more can be done to help prevent it before it becomes a serious medical condition.
Pet’s teeth require routine home care just like people’s do. The most effective way of maintaining the teeth is through daily brushing. Unfortunately, this can be difficult to do. If you can’t brush your pet’s teeth, there are other products on the market like dental bones, rinses, and even water additives that can help prevent dental disease.
When teeth aren’t taken care of, it is common to see red gums (gingivitis), and heavy tartar buildup. If this continues longer, the gums can start to recess where the roots and nerves of the teeth can become exposed. It is also very easy for the roots to become infected and even form pockets of infection which can be quite painful. Animals can be good at covering up their pain until the disease is very advanced. Signs of pain in the mouth to watch for can include: chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food out of the mouth, rubbing on the side of the face, or stopping eating altogether. If you notice a foul odor to your dog’s breath (halitosis), your pet likely has dental disease. Dental infections can eventually lead to heart, liver and kidney disease.
You may wonder what the best form of treatment is. Once dental disease is already present, you will need to do a combination of treatments. Your veterinarian will need to do an oral examination and see if a dental cleaning is required. In order to do a proper cleaning including scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatment, your pet will need to be anesthetized. After a dental cleaning is performed, you will need to maintain the teeth through a combination of home care products. Brushing is the most effective way of maintaining the teeth.
In order to brush your pet’s teeth, you will need to essentially train your pet to allow you to brush their teeth. A good way to do it is to start by keeping brushing sessions short and positive. You want your pet to be comfortable. Avoid over restraining and make it enjoyable. A good trick is to put something tasty on your finger like beef bouillon. Assuming your pet won’t bite you, you can rub it on the outer part of your pet’s teeth. Once your pet feels at ease with this, you can try to introduce a small amount of toothpaste formulated for dogs. Rub it on with your fingers or a piece of gauze in a circular motion. After several sessions once your pet feels at ease with this, you can slowly start to introduce a toothbrush or finger brush.
If you suspect your pet is developing dental disease, you should follow 3 basic steps. First, you will need to take your pet to a veterinarian to do a dental exam. You will also need to begin a dental care cleaning program at home. Lastly, you need to follow through and schedule regular veterinary check ups to make sure everything looks good and that the home care program is effective.