Guide to Dental Care for Pets

Being a pet owner includes numerous responsibilities. You need to provide food and water, a safe and warm place to live, appropriate exercise for your animal, and regular health care visits with a veterinarian. It is also necessary to provide your pet with at-home dental care. It can go a long way in your pet’s enjoyment of food and water, his or her physical contentment, and minimizing health care problems that require invasive and costly dental treatments. Keep reading to see how pet parents can provide home dental care that will help keep animals healthy for a lifetime.

Establish a Tooth Brushing Routine with Your Pet

The dental care you provide through brushing will in some ways be dictated by your pet. Options for brushing include cotton swabs, gauze, finger brushes, and actual soft-bristled toothbrushes; you may need a little trial and error until you find the option that cleans your pet’s teeth and that your pet feels comfortable with. The trick is to get your pet accustomed to regular, daily brushing. Ideally, the daily brushing of teeth begins when your pet is a puppy or kitten; animals can be affected by poor dental health as young as a year old. However, don’t be discouraged if you adopted your pet as an adult animal – it’s never too late to start. You can still develop a regular tooth brushing routine, it just may take longer to establish.

Human toothpaste should be avoided when brushing your pet’s teeth; it can be harmful to your pet. Some pets prefer flavored toothpastes while some pet owners find the animals are too interested in licking the toothpaste to allow for a thorough tooth brushing. In these circumstances, some pet owners discover that unflavored pastes work better. Start your pet’s dental care routine gently with first getting your pet used to your lifting his or her lips and touching the gum area with your fingers. Then you can progress to getting your pet used to the feel of the cotton swab, gauze or toothbrush, and then you can begin brushing regularly, always making sure to be gentle. If you’re using the toothbrush, keep the bristles at an angle so that you can clean well along the gum line. You may want to have a treat on hand to reward your pet with after brushing. Positive reinforcement can make this an easier habit to form.

Choose Oral Care Foods and Treats Wisely

Choosing food and treats that support good dental health can go a long way in making your job of brushing your pet’s teeth easier. Dry foods can provide necessary friction that helps keep dental plaque at bay. Specialized chew toys can also serve the same purpose. Some pet owners like to use special additives in water that foster good dental health. These can be useful tools in promoting dental care in your pet when used in conjunction with daily brushing. As good as they are, these are no substitute for daily brushing, which is still essential to your pet’s dental health.

Don’t Skip Regular Veterinary Exams

Regular vet check-ups are an important tool in providing your pet with excellent dental health care. Your pet’s veterinarian has many years of experience and may spot a dental problem that can be remedied relatively easily when caught early. A vet can also show you proper brushing techniques if needed. In cases where additional deep cleaning of teeth is necessary, a vet can ensure that this is done well and properly; however, for thorough, more in depth dental work pets typically need to be anesthetized. For this reason, it’s best to stay on top of at-home dental care for your pet as much as possible, to avoid the risks of anesthesia to the animal.

If your pet demonstrates any signs of periodontal disease or tooth decay, a trip to the vet is in order – don’t wait for your regular vet check-up. When you notice bad breath, loose teeth, red or swollen gums, a change in appetite, or if your pet seems to be rubbing or babying his or her mouth in some way, there could be a serious dental problem. If left untreated, dental problems like this – which could mean tooth decay or gum disease – can lead to more serious health issues that can affect cats’ and dogs’ internal organs and body systems. Veterinarians are specially trained to treat major dental health problems like this, but with regular and proper at-home dental care, you can minimize the chances that you could find your pet in this serious health situation.

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