Keeping your pet’s teeth healthy helps maintain her overall body health.
Brushing Fido’s or Fluffy’s teeth can be a very unpleasant task. Meat- and poultry-flavored toothpastes can cause frenetic tongue wagging as your pet tries desperately to devour the paste.
Little dogs and cats don’t enjoy big human fingers or finger brushes in their tiny mouths.
Fortunately, many great products have been developed specifically to help keep your fur baby’s chompers clean and healthy.
Between gels and gel pens, dental sprays that squirt right into pets’ mouths, dental wipes, dental toys, dental sticks and chews, dental food, dental water additives, powder and liquid supplement pet food toppings, and whiteners; your canine’s smile can be even more dazzling than your own!
Old-Fashioned Tooth Brushing
Veterinarians recommend brushing your dogs’ and cats’ teeth at least a couple of times each week. Just like humans, the food debris left on their teeth needs to be removed before it causes plaque.
Thankfully, vets don’t ask us to floss our pets’ teeth. Imagine being completely tangled up in a web of knotted floss with your pet!
Professionals recommend that you start brushing your pet’s teeth when they are very young so they become accustomed to it early. Choose a time when he is relaxed. Lots of praise and affection or a fun play session afterward is positively reinforcing.
Brushing is considered the best way to clean teeth. The other methods are meant to be supplemental. If your pet absolutely refuses to let you brush his teeth and you’re actually wrestling with him, perhaps a combination of other dental options will be more pleasant for both of you.
Dental Gels and Gel Pens
The gel method is very clever because your pet will lick her teeth to taste it and will spread the gel everywhere with her tongue. She will actually brush her own teeth. Gels contain enzymes that help melt away plaque, just like toothpastes also often contain enzymes to dissolve plaque.
You can squeeze out a pea-size amount of gel on your finger and wipe on the teeth or purchase the pen and apply it onto the teeth with it.
After using it nightly for a month, your pet’s teeth may be dramatically cleaner. At that point you can decrease the frequency to a couple of times per week.
Photo by Hang Niu on Unsplash
If you prefer not to stick your finger or a gel pen in your pet’s mouth, you can spray on teeth cleaner. Again, your cat or dog will lick it and spread it on her teeth and gum. She might also prefer you not stuffing your digits in her mouth!
Wipes may be easier to use than toothbrushes because they are flexible and have more surface area to make contact with the teeth. The presoaked wipes are textured to provide abrasion that dislodges food remnants.
You can rub them against the gums as well as the teeth. Look for natural brands made with Aloe Vera or peppermint.
Many pets love dental toys, which are no maintenance tools for human parents. Feline dental toys are usually infused with catnip to sustain kitty’s interest. Netting on cat toys acts like floss to remove food particles. Built in crinkly sounds also keep cats amused.
Rubber toys are fun for dogs to chew on. They have textured parts which enable the toys to rub against and clean the teeth
Dogs love to chew so a tasty flavor will entice Rover to gnaw on a dental chew until his jaw is tired or he becomes thirsty (and he may just return to that chew). Deer antlers and raw bones also do a great job in loosening plaque.
Cats enjoy a good chew, too. The friction helps scrape plaque and leftover food off of their teeth.
When choosing chews, check the ingredients and avoid ones with sugar, salt, or fat near the beginning of the list.
Food Fortified for Dental Health
Pet food formulated to enhance dental health is an easy way to make and keep their pearly-whites clean and bright. Big pieces of kibble scrape against the teeth to loosen plaque so it falls off.
Little pieces of food can still become embedded in the gum area or between teeth, so dental food should be paired with other teeth cleaning strategies.
Water additives are also simple to administer and effective. They are the mouthwash of pet dental care (minus the gargling). You can avoid chasing your pet around the house with a toothbrush, and your domestic beast won’t even taste it–like the fluoride in our tap water.
Dental Powder and Spray Supplement Food Toppings
If you’re not slipping dental products into your fur baby’s water, you can sneak them onto your pet’s food. It’s another low-maintenance option that works very well.
Sprinkle or drop/pour a bit of dental powder/liquid on your pet’s food. Some powders have Zinc and vitamins C and D to strengthen teeth. Vitamin C aids in collagen production, which in important for teeth and gum health. Vitamin C also protects cells against oxidative stress.
Food supplement additives come in the form of drops, sprays, and pour bottles.
Yes, there are dog and cat teeth whiteners out there! You don’t want your pet to feel self-conscious that your teeth are are five shades whiter than hers, right?!
You can choose from whitening paste treatments to brush on after toothpaste, gel pens, sprays, and wipes—no teeth strips! These may have been created for show dogs and cats originally, but try it if you want your little buddy to smile with confidence.
Dental health is extremely important for animals as well for people. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dogs and cats need annual veterinary dental exams.
Professional Teeth Cleaning at the Vet
Plaque build up hardens and becomes tartar. Plaque can be removed at home, but scraping off tartar requires a visit to the vet.
If you haven’t been cleaning your pet’s teeth or if you’ve adopted a dog or cat that’s several years old, your vet may recommend a deep cleaning.
The vet has to anesthetize any animal before a teeth cleaning. As pets age, it becomes risky to put them under anesthesia. As with humans, when pets grow older they suffer from low or high blood pressure, low or high blood oxygen, and high or low heart rate. Those conditions complicate coming out of anesthesia.
Your mission as a pet guardian is to avoid teeth extractions.
It can cost thousands of dollars to have multiple rotted teeth removed, so using a dental product or two will save your pet the pain and discomfort and will save you the expense. In addition, watching your pet suffer is devastating.
Plus, your poor pet can be left missing a bunch of teeth and needing to eat wet food because he can’t chew.
Four out of five dogs develop gum disease as they age into their senior years. Cats are even more prone to dental issues. Between 50 and 90% of cats over the age of four have dental disease of some kind.
Without brushing, or at least utilizing other dental cleaning methods, plaque will build up on your pet’s teeth and become tartar. Plaque causes tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and even worse—painful infections.
Tartar irritates gums and causes gingivitis, which results in tooth loss. An excess of bacteria in your pet’s mouth can ultimately damage her heart and kidneys.
The most dangerous consequence of failing to clean teeth is that severe infections can spread throughout the body and cause life-threatening conditions. Dental infections can travel to the brain, jaw, neck, or anywhere in the head.
On rare occasions, they have resulted in sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which chemicals in the bloodstream try to fight an infection and cause inflammation which damages several organ systems and causes them to fail—causing death if not treated early. Apologies for being dramatic, but dental health can not be overstated.
Look for Irregularities
Pet guardians need to look for any irregularities in their fur child’s dental health.
Be aware of the following conditions:
- Bad breath is an indication of a problem.
- Discolored or tartar-covered teeth need medical attention.
- Something may be amiss if a pet is exhibiting abnormal drooling, chewing, or food is falling out of his mouth.
- Loose or broken teeth need to be addressed.
- Keep an eye out for swelling or bleeding in the mouth.
- Something is probably wrong If she seems to be in pain, hiding, not being affectionate, or won’t eat. Behavior changes often reflect discomfort.
In summary, we are fortunate that the pet industry offers many wonderful products to ensure our pets’ teeth are healthy.
Try brushing and use other options to supplement dental health. If your pet refuses to let you brush his teeth, using a combination of the other options should keep his teeth and gums healthy.