Have you ever wondered why your dentist tells you to brush your teeth twice a day? The answer is simple: to keep your teeth clean and healthy! No one wants a root canal or cavities, and we usually follow our dentist’s advice.
So why is it that dental health for pets is often forgotten? The answer is most likely that pet owners aren’t educated about the importance of oral hygiene.
The American Veterinary Dental College states that most cats and dogs have some form of dental disease by the time they reach three years of age. If your pet is older than three, there’s no need to worry! Several steps can be taken to make your pet's mouth stay healthy and clean. Keep reading to learn more about why pet dental health is so important.
What are the signs of poor dental health in pets?
Signs of poor dental health in pets are very similar to humans. However, your pet can’t tell you when they’re feeling uncomfortable, so it’s a good idea to look for these common symptoms:
Drooling more than usual
Pawing at the mouth
Red, swollen gums
While these symptoms often indicate dental disease, it’s not always the cause. For example: If you have a kitten with swollen or bloody gums, it could be a sign that their baby teeth (also called deciduous teeth) haven’t fallen out.
Whatever the cause, if any of these symptoms are present, you should make an appointment with your vet.
How can I ensure my pet has clean teeth?
Preventative care is the ideal solution for avoiding dental health disease, but starting routines at any age can dramatically help your pet avoid further discomfort. Here’s where to start:
Brush your pet’s teeth: Brushing your pets’ teeth is most likely to succeed if you start when they are a puppy or kitten. The first step is to make them comfortable with having a small toothbrush or your finger in their mouth before introducing toothpaste. Once they’re ready, toothpaste can be purchased for cats and dogs at a vet clinic or pet stores.
You probably feed your pet at the same time every day, so do the same with brushing their teeth. Try for 60 seconds, and brush in slow, circular motions. Gently lift their lip and clean the gumline if they will let you.
Choose what they chew: Dogs like to chew things. It’s a fact of life. As a dog owner, you should keep track of what kind of toys your dog likes best, so they don't move on to non-toy options like shoes or pillows. Toys that are designed to help strengthen your dogs' teeth and gums include synthetic bones and harder to chew toys.
Food and dental health go hand in hand: There are so many options when choosing what to feed your cat or dog. The two main choices are crunchy and wet food. Both serve important purposes for your pets' digestion. Make sure to purchase species-appropriate ingredients, preferably with low carbohydrate and starch content.
How do vets treat dental health in pets?
Regular dental care reduces the chance that your pet will need expensive procedures like removing teeth or calcified tartar and plaque. Yearly cleanings are recommended by veterinarians starting at age two for cats and dogs. When your vet determines that it’s time for a cleaning, a second visit will be scheduled. During the cleaning, your pet will be put under anesthesia. Plaque and tartar will be removed, and their teeth will be polished with toothpaste designed specifically for cats or dogs.
It’s possible that while performing a regular cleaning your vet may decide that an extraction is necessary if dental disease is present or highly likely. If the tooth is already loose, it might be as easy as using a soft-tipped tool to remove the tooth gently. In other cases, it may be a more complicated procedure.
If your dog's or cat's tooth needs removal, don’t worry! Most will adjust quickly to having fewer teeth and won’t have trouble eating their regular food within a few days. However, in rare cases special or softer foods may be required.
Like humans, when dental issues are left untreated, they can lead to heart or kidney diseases. Dental disease is extremely common in cats and dogs, but with the right preventative care, it can be avoided.