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It took a while, but we veterinarians have finally made some progress when it comes to helping people understand — and do something about — the importance of oral health for their dogs. The message is coming through loud and clear: Doggy-breath isn’t normal, and rotting teeth and gums are painful and life-shortening.
After not much more than a single generation — of dogs, not people — we veterinarians now see dog owners who are happy to ask for more information on brushing, and who understand the importance of regular dental checkups and cleanings under anesthesia. To go from a universal response of “You’re kidding? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?!” to questions about how to properly handle this chore (or at least an admission of feeling guilty about not doing it) is a real leap forward in wellness care, and our dogs are better for it.
But what about cats? I’ve seen the look of disbelief on cat owners' faces at the recommendation that cats should have their teeth brushed too. This is a harder sell, not because people care less about their cats, but because they can't imagine getting their cats to cooperate with hands-on dental care.
Yes, there are people who brush their cat’s teeth, and yes, it’s much easier to start with a kitten. But with patience, treats and praise, many adult cats can learn to tolerate — and even enjoy — the process that surrounds a gentle attention to teeth and gums. Besides: Pet-friendly toothpaste is yummy!
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