Did you know that by age 3-4, many dogs already have periodontal disease? Preventive dental care is just as important for your pet as it is for people, yet it is one of the most neglected health needs of animals. Periodontal disease is caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. This results in inflammation, infection of the gums, and loosening of the teeth.
Proper home care is the most important factor in protecting your pet’s oral health. Feed a proper diet (dry food) to stimulate the gums and reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar. Brushing their teeth is also very helpful.
Two considerations get in the way of brushing your pet’s teeth:
- You don’t want to do it.
- Your pet doesn’t want it done.
But don’t worry, you brush your own teeth, don’t you? It is part of your routine and that’s how you should approach the challenge with your pet. First, understand brushing must be done on a regular basis, (at least every other day) to be of any value. In fact, daily brushing is best, since plaque mineralizes into calculus in 24-48 hours. Try to create a habitual routine by choosing an appropriate time and place. Do your best to make brushing fun; pick a time when both of you are relaxed and use lots of praise for your pet.
When first introducing your pet to tooth brushing, start slowly. First touch your pet’s muzzle to help relax him. Gently pull the lips back and expose all of the teeth, eventually stroking the gums and teeth. Use a dog toothpaste (not a human product) and pediatric toothbrush, or we carry toothbrush kits at the clinic. To help introduce having a toothbrush in their mouth, use a small amount of paste and brush in a circular motion. Remember that the accumulations of plaque and calculus are greatest on the side of a pet’s teeth facing the cheek. This is where the salivary gland duct openings are.
Some signs that your pet may have dental problems are: they may have bad breath, are not eating well, they chew on only one side of their mouth, and food may fall out of their mouth when eating. Infected teeth allow bacteria into the bloodstream as well as potentially cause damage in the kidneys and other organs. Certain breeds of dogs seem to be prone to periodontal disease, including poodles, schnauzers, terriers, pomeranians, plus any breed of geriatric animal. If you take dental care seriously when your pet is young, you can prevent problems and allow your pet to keep a full set of teeth throughout his life. But even if your pet is older, correcting dental problems to whatever degree possible will give you a happier, healthier pet.