Your Pet’s Dental Health

Brushing Dogs TeethMany pet owners assume that smelly breath is just a normal part of having a dog or cat and ignore it, or attempt to mask the odor with breath-freshening treats or sprays.

However, that “dog breath” you’re trying to avoid is likely a sign that your pet has hidden dental problems. Problems which, over time, can lead to serious, and even life-threatening, health issues.

Where Bad Breath Comes From

Bad breath in dogs and cats is caused by bacteria growth or infection along the gums and teeth, commonly known as periodontal disease. Periodontal disease can introduce bacteria to the bloodstream, which circulates through the body and can infect the kidneys, liver and heart.

How You Can Protect Your Pet

Bringing your pet in for regular dental exams and cleanings is extremely important to you pet’s systemic health.

But even if your pet receives regular dental cleanings at the veterinarian’s office, there are some simple things you can do at home that will go a long way toward his or her overall oral health:

  • If possible, start your pet’s dental health care as a puppy or kitten.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth three times a week, at least.
  • Feed dogs dry food over soft food, unless directed otherwise by your veterinarian.
  • Provide specially-designed treats and toys that help remove plaque build up.
  • See your veterinarian regularly for check-ups and report noticeable changes in your pet’s mouth, gums or teeth right away.
  • How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
  • Let’s face it, chances are your dog or cat is not going to enjoy having its mouth handled when you first attempt to brush its teeth.
    Perhaps the most the most important part of caring for your pet’s mouth is getting him or her comfortable with you poking around the oral cavity in the first place. It is important to not push your pet past their comfort zone, and baby steps are fine in the beginning, so stop when your pet is uncomfortable and try again the next day.

    Take your time, and don’t give up. Like any new routine, it can take a little time for your pet to adjust.

    How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

    1.  Purchase a double-headed toothbrush or a finger brush, and toothpaste made for pets. Human toothpaste has fluoride, which is poisonous to animals, and not meant to be swallowed – which is important since your pet can’t spit. Our office staff can help you pick the right brush and toothpaste if you are not sure which to choose.
    2. Pick a time, preferably following exercise so that your pet is more likely to sit still. Start slow, using your finger or the finger brush to gently rub along your dog’s gums. This helps get your pet comfortable with having its mouth handled, and helps promote blood flow to the gums.
    3. Place some toothpaste on your finger, and let your pet get used to the flavor. If your pet doesn’t readily lick the toothpaste off your finger, try a different flavor. Brushing teeth can be a lot easier if your pet sees it as a yummy treat!
    4. Lift your pet’s upper lip, and angle the toothbrush bristles towards the gum line, at roughly a 45-degree angle. Using a gentle, circular motion, brush along the gum line and down the front of each tooth. Some light bleeding may occur along the gum line in the beginning, but excessive bleeding is not normal and should be reported to your vet.
    5. Gently brush the inside of your pet’s lower teeth with the same circular motion.
    6. End each session on a positive note. Praise your pet, no matter how far into the process you got. Dogs, in particular, want to please you, and each session will get easier if you offer them plenty of praise and love as a reward for trying.