Brush Up on Dental Care for Your Pets

Taking care of your furry friend’s pearly whites provides more than fresh kissing breath and a pretty smile. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, an estimated 70 percent of cats and 80 percent of dogs develop some degree of periodontal disease by their second birthdays. Periodontal disease not only affects oral health, resulting in tooth decay and bone loss, but the harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream and target your companion’s kidneys and heart as well. The good news is that although periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed health problem in pets, it is also preventable.

It All Begins with Plaque
Plaque is a filmy coating that develops on the surface of your pet’s teeth. It is not easy to see, but it is loaded with bacteria. When you brush your pet’s teeth, your goal is to remove as much of the plaque as possible. Plaque that remains on your pet’s teeth calcifies, forming the noticeable brownish-yellow buildup. This buildup is called tartar, and you cannot remove it through brushing. Tartar must be removed with ultrasonic scaling, which must be performed under anesthesia by one of our veterinary professionals. Once tartar appears on your pet’s teeth, the gums become inflamed and infected as periodontal disease sets in. The whole periodontal disease process begins with plaque, the first line of offense as the bacteria commence their assault on your pet’s health. Since plaque can be brushed away, you have the power to prevent periodontal disease in your pet.

Primary Care Begins at Home
Brush your pet’s teeth once daily with toothpaste that is specifically formulated for use in pets. These toothpastes are safe for your pet to swallow, and they come in various flavors that appeal to dogs and cats. Your pet would probably opt for chicken or salmon over your preferred mint or cinnamon. Pet toothbrushes come in various sizes. Choose a brush that will fit comfortably behind your pet’s lips. Finger brushes, which resemble thimbles with tiny bristles, are another option. Follow these steps to gradually acclimate your pet to the routine:

Move your fingers around in your pet’s mouth while you are petting his or her head and face, and offer a taste of the toothpaste as a treat to lick off of your fingers.
Once your pet is used to having your fingers manipulating on his or her teeth, rub the toothpaste along the front surface of your pet’s teeth with a gauze pad.
Once your pet has accepted the above step, swap out the gauze pad for the toothbrush. Do not fight with your pet to pry and hold his or her mouth open. Slip the brush under the lip and focus on brushing along the front surfaces of the teeth.

Do not rush from one step to the next during this training period. Allow your pet to set the pace at which he or she is comfortable. Whether that takes days or weeks, you have your pet’s lifetime to reap the benefits of brushing, so take the time now to teach him or her to accept the task. Be patient, and offer plenty of reassurance and praise. Follow up all brushing sessions with a reward treat. Make home dental care fun and pleasant for your pet.

Plaque forms on every pet’s teeth, but certain breeds are more prone to periodontal disease. Breeds that require extra diligence with brushing include:

Toy breeds, such as Yorkshire terriers, Pomeranians and toy poodles
Brachycephalic breeds, or breeds with pushed in faces, such as pugs, bulldogs and Persians.

In addition to brushing, consider using a dental rinse that is formulated for use in pets. You can also supplement brushing by offering your cat crunchy tartar control treats and rewarding your dog with dental chew sticks.

You can also prevent periodontal disease by bringing your dog or cat in to see us at Central Pet Care regularly for his or her routine preventative care examination, which includes an oral examination.  [call_to_action title=”HAVE DENTAL QUESTION?” icon=”icon-help-circled” link=”” button_title=”” class=”” target=”_blank” animate=””]CONTACT OUR OFFICE AT 417.358.1300 [/call_to_action]

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