Do you think you really need to brush your pets teeth? February is National Pet Dental Month and if you’ve never wondered this before it’s time to start! The answer varies depending on your pet and breed, but, in most cases, the answer is yes.
One of the main indicators of your pet needing oral care is bad breath. Many people may think that all pet breath is bad, but when you are a pet owner, you notice when there is a distinct change in your pet’s breath. Bad breath stems from food particles that get trapped within the gum tissue or sit along the animal’s teeth. Bacteria thrive on this debris and that is where bad breath begins. Us humans, of course, can easily brush and floss food debris away, but when we aren’t providing any type of oral health care for our pets, this can cause problems, and not just bad breath.
Once bacteria sits on your pet’s teeth and gums, it forms plaque which then hardens and turns into tartar. This can create pocketing in the gum tissue, which leads to inflammation and gum disease. Dogs are 5 times more likely to get gum disease than humans due to the alkaline nature of their mouth and the fact that, basically, they don’t have opposable thumbs to use a toothbrush. Gum disease is reversible with oral health care, but, once bone loss sets in, that can’t be corrected and generally teeth will loosen and need to be removed. Even with just gum disease, animals can have a hard time eating their food, so with the issue of losing teeth, that will also increase the chance of your pet having a harder time not only eating their food but also digesting it due to larger pieces being swallowed.
What do you need to do to help your pet out with their oral health? You can start by buying treats and toys that are designed to help control plaque and tartar (please make sure treats are made in the USA due to the large issue of health problems with treats from overseas causing illness and death). Make sure you monitor your pet with certain treats like Greenies ® so that your pet doesn’t swallow too large of a piece. Toys and treats are a start, but most likely, this is not going to get the job done completely.
If you are taking your pet to a veterinarian, it is part of the examination to check your pet’s teeth. Your vet can give you a heads up on the health of your pet’s mouth. If your pet’s dental health is to the point of needing a cleaning, (yup, that’s what I said, a cleaning for your pet) it’s not a bad idea to do it. It is somewhat costly due to the fact that your pet has to be put under anesthesia to do it. I have had several of my pets teeth cleaned, and it made a huge difference in the quality of their breath.
The easiest way to prevent bad breath and plaque is to start brushing your pet’s teeth. Start at a young age to get them used to it. There are finger brushes that you put on the end of your finger with little nubs to rub along the pet’s teeth. Please make sure that if you are using toothpaste, that it is one specifically designated for animals. Do not use toothpaste made for humans due to the fluoride content. There are toothbrushes designed for animals also. The earlier you can start getting your pet used to having their teeth brushed, the easier it will be. This can potentially prevent oral health issues or at least slow them down.
If you are experiencing bad breath issues with your pet or are noticing that they have bleeding gums when chewing toys, not wanting to eat food or are favoring one side of their mouth, have your vet check it out. Problems caught earlier can save money in the long run.
Now, let’s talk about your flossing…….