Are your pet’s pearly whites more yellow-brown in color?
Does his breath make you plug your nose? We wouldn’t be surprised if many of you
answered yes and yes. By the time they’re 3 years old, most dogs and cats suffer from
some degree of dental disease — and yellow-brown tartar and stinky breath are
just two of the warning signs. But your pet doesn’t have to be part of that
disheartening statistic! There are steps you can take at home — and with the
help of your veterinarian — to help combat dental disease.
Check out the photo gallery below to learn how you can
improve your dog or cat’s dental health.
Know the Warning Signs of Dental Disease
As we mentioned, bad breath and yellow-brown tartar
can indicate that your pet has dental disease. Other signs to look for include inflamed gums,
bleeding gums, broken teeth, pawing at the mouth, difficulty
chewing and excessive drooling. If you notice any of these signs, don’t ignore
them — contact your veterinarian.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene at Home
Many pet owners neglect brushing their dog or cat’s teeth
because they think it’s too difficult or not important. While it can take some
getting used to, brushing your pet’s teeth probably isn’t as challenging as it seems.
With patience, praise and plenty of treats, your animal will likely tolerate —
or even enjoy — getting his teeth brushed. Dr. Beth Thompson shows you what to do
here. And as for it not being important? Brushing your pet’s teeth daily helps
remove bacteria-containing plaque from his teeth. If that plaque isn’t removed
frequently through brushing and regular dental cleanings, it may harden into
tartar, which is much more difficult to remove.
Just remember: Only use toothpaste that is specially
formulated for pets. Human toothpastes can contain ingredients that are dangerous
for dogs and cats.
Get Your Pet’s Teeth Professionally Cleaned
Unfortunately, even daily tooth brushing may not be enough
to defend against dental disease. After an initial dental exam, your veterinarian may
recommend a more thorough exam with a dental cleaning. During this procedure, she will remove plaque
and tartar on the teeth and under the gumline and do a thorough examination of your pet’s mouth. She may recommend X-rays to see if there are any signs of
dental disease below the gumline. Thanks to advances in pet healthcare, root
canals, braces and other advanced dental treatments are available for dogs and
cats. If special procedures are required, your veterinarian may refer you
to a veterinary dental specialist.
Provide Safe Chew Toys
Some chew toys can break your dog's teeth. As a general rule of thumb, Dr. Marty Becker says you
shouldn’t give your pet a chew toy that’s hard enough that you wouldn’t want it
to hit you in the knee. And while you're at it, don’t allow your pet to chew on rocks, fencing or
other hard objects that could damage his teeth.
If your dog or cat really won’t let you brush his teeth,
there are other dental-care treatments you can try. Some foods for dogs and cats are specifically formulated to help control
plaque and tartar. Look for dental diets that carry the VOHC seal of
approval. Oral rinses and gels may help
keep bacteria from adhering to the tooth enamel, and giving your pet drinking
water additives daily can help prevent plaque accumulation. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian for advice. He may be able to
recommend a product that works for you and your pet.