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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.
- Ten Steps to Dental Health Information about feline dental health and how to promote it in your cat.
- Tanya’s Comprehensive Guide to Feline Chronic Kidney Disease – Dental Problems An overview of the problems that can occur when cats suffer poor dental health. Included is a description of Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL), a serious health concern for cats.
- Cat Dental Health This page provides a brief introduction to dental health problems in cats.
- Home Care for Cats Learn about the importance of long-term, consistent at-home dental health care for your cat.
- Dental Care for Your Pets A short list of frequently asked questions about how much and what kind of dental care pets need.
- Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition Learn about the effect of diet on dental health in cats.
- A Guide to Feline Dental Care A brief examination of poor dental health in cats. This article discusses tooth resorption and oropharyngeal inflammation, and includes pictures.
- When Teeth Turn to Tusks A look at proper dental care for rabbits
- Rabbits Need Dental Care Too A description of the anatomy and physiology of rabbits’ mouths. This article includes illustrations and frequently asked questions about caring for your rabbit’s teeth.
- Common Dental Problems In Rodents: Treatment & Prevention Learn about the anatomy of rodents’ mouths through text and illustrations; see what common problems are and how they are usually treated.
- Dental Care Great Dane Rescue in Ohio offers information about how periodontal disease in dogs can allow bacteria into the dog’s bloodstream, leading to additional health problems.
- Dental and Gum Care Get an overview of how to care for your Italian Greyhound’s teeth and gums.
- February is National Pet Dental Health Month See a video, listen to a podcast, and read more about dental health for pets.
- Dental Care This is a how-to guide for brushing dogs’ teeth from the American Kennel Club.
- Influence of Diet on Oral Health in Cats and Dogs This is a scholarly article that discusses the effect of a hard-food diet on pets’ dental health.
- Veterinary Oral Health Council – Purpose and History A discussion of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC®) and the work it does.
- Dental Care and Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth This article covers gum disease and tooth problems. It also provides step-by-step instructions on how to brush your pet’s teeth.
- Feline Oral Health This article discusses how cats with feline leukemia may be more susceptible to oral health problems.
- About Guinea Pigs This general guide to guinea pigs includes a section on dental care for guinea pigs.
- Learning the ABC’s of Dental Disease in Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Chinchillas (PDF) An American Animal Hospital Association article with information about dental disease in rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas.
- Feline Health Topics A virtual library of articles about cat health provided by Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
- Animal Care Downloadable PDFs of pet care sheets from the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
- Caring and Training This Bichon Frise Club of America article talks about dental health issues specific to Bichon Frise dogs.
- Pet Conditions, Illnesses, Diseases Explained A comprehensive list of health issues affecting pets, with brief descriptions.
- Benefits of a Natural Raw Diet This article discusses the potential dental/periodontal benefits of a raw food diet for cats.
- Oral Hygiene for Dogs This article and accompanying pictures cover tips and techniques for providing dental care for dogs.
- Dental Care Watch videos and read text to learn more about pets’ dental health and how to properly provide at-home dental care to your animals.
- Brush Up On How To Keep Your Pet’s Teeth Healthy This article discusses at-home and vet-provided dental care for pets.
- Caring For Your Pet This page offers a very brief introduction to pet health in general and provides links to more detailed information and advice about caring for pets.
- Dental Care For Your Pet The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association provides tips on what to look for when assessing your pet’s dental health. The article also covers dental health care tips.
- The Vet Is In – Brushing Your Dog’s Teeth Learn the steps required to brush your dog’s teeth.
- Feline Teeth / Brush Your Cat’s Teeth This article covers the types of feline teeth and how pet owners can care for them.
- Animal Care Standards This Colorado Association of Animal Control Officers document outlines minimum care requirements for pets.
- Dental Care for Cats This article from the American Association of Feline Practitioners covers general dental health care for cats, including how to care for cats’ teeth at home.
- What Is Wrong with Putting Teeth in the Dog Laws? This article from the National Animal Interest Alliance discusses mandating dental care for dogs and explores the idea of veterinarians reporting pet owners for animal abuse when they don’t properly care for dogs’ dental health.
- Benefits of a Prey Model Raw Diet ~ Better Health Naturally This article discusses how dogs can benefit from a raw food diet.
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