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Pet Tooth Care

We know how important caring for our teeth is in preventing bad breath, tooth discoloration, plaque build-up and eventually gum disease and tooth loss. Our companion animals have the same oral health care needs as we do. Daily oral care for your pet's teeth is an important part of the overall health of your pet. Don't let bad breath and gum disease caused by poor oral hygiene keep you and your pet from getting close. Remember, your companion relies on you to maintain their good health and if you are skipping dental care you are neglecting a very important part of their overall health.

Periodontal Disease
Periodontal or gum disease is the silent destroyer and is one of the most common diseases affecting both adult dogs and cats. Veterinarians estimate that 80% of all dogs and 70% of all cats have some form of gum disease by the time they are three years old. Periodontal disease is the most diagnosed condition by veterinarians.

Gum disease begins as gingivitis. Plaque is formed from bacteria, salivary proteins and food debris. Plaque gets into the gums causing irritation, swelling and redness. Gum disease occurs when the plaque and tartar start to build up on your pet's teeth. If left untreated, this will worsen and may lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease which attacks the supporting structures that hold the teeth in place.

With gum disease, pockets of infection form around the tooth and bacteria begin to destroy the supporting tissue. This can result in infected gum tissue, potential tooth loss, as well as abcesses and pain for your companion.

Gum disease not only harms your pet's mouth, it can even shorten your pet's life. Harmful bacteria can enter the bloodstream through blood vessels located near the gums and teeth. When this occurs, bacterial infection can reach the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and even the brain.

Symptoms of Gum Disease
Bad breath is the most common early sign of gum disease. Other signs include:
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Bleeding, inflamed or receding gum lines
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tartar build up (yellow, creamy brown hard material on the tooth surface.)
  • Difficulty eating or chewing food
Prevention is the best defense against periodontal disease. Proper tooth care at home is the most important factor in caring for your companion's teeth. This includes brushing teeth on a regular basis with a brush designed for your pet. Removal of plaque and mouth debris can be accomplished easily by use of blotting or dry brushing types of  animal toothbrushes and animal toothpaste.

Halitosis or bad breath is caused by debris lodged between the teeth and gums, in the rough surface of the tongue, in the roof of the mouth and under the tongue. The best way to get rid of the odor is to remove the decaying debris. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles in a light brushing fashion that will displace and absorb the debris. If you keep a regular routine of preventive oral care, halitosis will rarely be present unless it is a symptom of a more serious ailment.

Cavities  are rarely an issue with pets, but they do sometimes happen. If your pet has a painful cavity, they will exhibit difficulty in eating and resist attempts to examine their mouths. Your veterinarian will most likely recommend filling or removing the tooth. Unattended cavities can lead to more serious issues like tooth root abcesses.

What You Can Do to Help Your Pet
Good oral health begins with a thorough oral examination. If your dog's teeth are exceptionally bad, your veterinarian may recommend a thorough cleaning. Some pets require this on an annual basis. Professional cleaning removes plaque, stains and tartar encrusted around the gum lines.

Avoid feeding your pet only sweet or soft sticky foods. Dry food, biscuits and dental chews are available for both dogs and cats to help reduce plaque formation.

The teeth should be brushed at least once or twice a week, more often if possible. As with grooming, acclimation is best started early in the puppy's life.  One of our dogs even likes her teeth flossed, so anything is possible.

To acclimate your dog to tooth brushing, start by handling the mouth and running your finger along the gum and tooth line. If pooch fusses, take a break and play, then try again. Remember to PRAISE for success. Make it an enjoyable experience, but remember to take your time. It is important to keep your home dental care enjoyable and positive. Brushing your companions teeth is much like brushing your own teeth. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and gums and dab or tap up and down on the brush in each area for 30 seconds or until the brush no longer picks up debris. As the brush fills with debris clean it by rapping it (bristle side down) against the sink or rinsing under water. When you have finished brushing the teeth be certain to thoroughly rinse and clean the toothbrush.

If you are having difficulty with using a pet toothbrush you can make a toothbrush with some gauze. To make a toothbrush, fold a square gauze pad loosely around the tip of your index finger. Or you can use a small, soft child's toothbrush or buy a special toothbrush from a veterinarian or pet supply. Dip the toothbrush or gauze pad in a toothpaste designed for dogs (not for humans, since human formulations can upset the dog's stomach) or into a paste made of baking soda and water. Next, scrub the outside surfaces of the teeth, especially the rear teeth. With the gauze pad, you may also try to gently massage the gums. It is not necessary to brush the interior surfaces of the teeth.

If you find that brushing the teeth is just not happening, here are some products to help you keep your pet's teeth healthier:

  • Drs. Foster and Smith Dental Cleansers. Available in pads and squeeze bottle. Cleans teeth easily and quickly.
  • Kong and Nylabone Toys . Durable chew toys that help promote healthy teeth and gums.
  • PetFirst Oral Care made by Inobys that is added to your pet's water on a daily basis.
  • Greenies or similar style dog chew toys given regularly, decrease tartar accumulation and freshens breath.

Common sense is the best guide for pet dental care. Think about how your teeth would look and feel if you never brushed them - gross.

Should you wish to contact us immediately
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