According to the American Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Dental disease can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung, and kidney disease if it goes undiagnosed or is not treated properly. Ensuring your pet receives the dental care he or she needs from an early age is critical to the health, wellbeing, and longevity of your pet’s life.
Dental issues are also one of the top veterinary expenditures. Regular teeth cleanings to maintain the oral health of your pet can typically cost between $70 and $350, depending on the severity of dental issues your pet may be facing. Typically, your veterinarian will recommend when your pet needs teeth cleaning. With regular teeth cleanings at home and regular check-ups with your veterinarian, your pet can maintain healthy teeth for a number of years without professional cleaning. If your pet is in need of an oral examination or teeth cleaning, pet insurance can help cover these routine care costs to ensure the oral health of your pet without breaking your bank.
There are several things you can do at home to maintain the oral health of your dog or cat and keep dental health-related visits to the veterinarian at a minimum. Regular examinations of your pet’s mouth and brushing teeth at home will help protect your pet against dental disease, gum inflammation or infection, bad breath, and other dental issues.
Pet Dental Health At Home
Start when your pet is young. It is important to introduce teeth cleaning to your puppy or kitten soon after you first bring them home. Just as you would teach your puppy his first trick, teach them to sit for their teeth cleaning and/or rinsing. It is important to get your pet used to letting you touch the inside of their mouth while brushing and examining their teeth. While you open and examine their mouth, praise good behavior, and be sure to always make the experience a positive one for your pet.
When examining your pet’s mouth and brushing pets’ teeth at home it is best to start with a fresh mouth. An initial exam and cleaning by your veterinarian will allow you to start with a clean slate and will tell you if your pet has any preexisting dental issues you should be aware of.
Cleaning Teeth At Home
- Prepare yourself with a toothbrush and proper toothpaste. Enzymatic toothpaste (containing enzymes to fight plaque and fluoride to fight bacteria) is best for your pet. Do not use human toothpaste when cleaning your pet’s teeth, human toothpaste can contain bleaches, irritants, baking soda and fluoride, which will upset your pet’s stomach if ingested. Many enzymatic toothpastes come in flavors such as beef, chicken, lamb or malt flavors to make for an enjoyable “treat” for your pet. In addition to purchasing enzymatic toothpaste, purchase a special pet-friendly toothbrush for at-home cleanings. Human toothbrushes, even child toothbrushes, are too rough for our pet’s teeth. Soft bristled toothbrushes and even finger caps with ribs to clean pet teeth are sold at local pet stores.
- Introduce your pet to the toothpaste and toothbrush calmly and slowly. Let your pet sniff the toothbrush and perhaps let him chew on it a bit while you keep hold of the brush. Familiarize your pet with the teeth cleaning process, rub his gums and move his lips to let him get used to you examining his mouth.
- Start by cleaning the upper teeth along the gumline using circular motions. The top teeth are most vulnerable to plaque, but it is important to brush all of your pet’s teeth — top and bottom. Brushing pet’s teeth should use up and down motions covering about 3-4 teeth at a time. Keep teeth brushing short and sweet. It won’t always be perfect, but it is important to stay consistent and keep trying. The enzymes in the toothpaste are beneficial to our pet’s teeth even if the brushing to get it there isn’t perfect.
- In between brushings, treat your pet to hard food and biscuits to maintain oral health. The hard food and treats can help minimize plaque buildup on the teeth. In between at home brushing and veterinary exams, be sure to regularly examine your pet’s mouth for signs of periodontal disease. Brownish teeth, consistently bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums and pus between the teeth and gums are all warning signs. If your dog or cat has these symptoms, consult your veterinarian.
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