Pet Dental Health

A lot of times when we get a dog or cat, we don’t think about their teeth until it’s too late. Keeping your pets’ teeth clean is as important to your pet’s overall heath as nutrition, proper exercise and for some pets, routine grooming. 

Keep an eye on your pet’s teeth. Look at the regularly to avoid dental disease. To check your pet’s teeth, lift the lips all around the mouth, look at the front and back teeth as closely as possible.

To start with, there are three kinds of dental debris:

  • Food particles
  • Plaque
  • Tartar (calculus)

Food particles are easy to remove. Just drinking water can eliminate most of the free-floating fragments from around a dog’s teeth.

But plaque and tartar are different. Plaque is the sticky biofilm that adheres tightly to every tooth surface. It requires physical scrubbing to remove it. Once cleaned away, plaque returns again within just 24 hours.

Left along the gumline long enough, plaque slowly and inevitably turns into a rock-hard, barnacle-like crust referred to as calculus and more commonly called tartar.

Plaque is what you remove with your toothbrush. Tartar is the hard stuff your dentist scrapes away when you get your teeth cleaned.

Once plaque builds up on the teeth, it turns into tartar or calculus. Bacteria grows in these areas and eats away at the teeth and gums. The bacterial can get into the blood stream and affect the heart and kidneys. 

If you find the following, you may need to contact your Vet: Bad breath, reluctance to chew/crying out when chewing, increased salivation, red and/or puffy gums, bleeding gums, tartar/calculus (hard coating on teeth that is usually brown or yellow; results from plaque build-up), missing and/or loose teeth, anything else about the mouth that appears unusual.

There are several things you can do to help keep your pet’s teeth in good shape. The best time to start dental hygiene is when you get a puppy or kitten, but that’s not always possible. 

NEVER brush your pet’s teeth with human toothpaste – it can make your dog sick! Use special enzymatic toothpaste made especially for dogs. The same goes for oral rinses.

Remember, plaque begins to turn into tartar/calculus within 24-48 hours, so daily brushing is recommended. Like us, its best to brush their teeth at night before going to bed—this will also make it easier to remember. 

Use a “finger brush” or special long toothbrush designed for use on dogs. When starting out with brushings, the finger brush can help ease your dog into it, as these do not feel as awkward as hard brushes.

If you’re not sure what to do, ask your Vet to show you some techniques to make tooth brushing easier on you and your dog. 

What if you just can’t brush your pet’s teeth? There are other options. Raw bones, raw chicken or turkey’s necks are nature’s natural toothbrushes. Keep in mind, it you have a cat and he/she goes out and kills and eats their prey on a regular basis, it’s a good chance they will have healthy teeth. It’s highly acidic and two the bones scrape the teeth.

Antlers and Himalayan Dog Chews are also a good option for your pets. 

There are products like Fresh Pet that you can add to their water to keep plaque off their teeth. They also have a Gel you can put in their mouth to remove plaque and tarter. Animal Essentials makes SeaDent for dogs and you add it to their food. I think it works best when you are starting without any plaque. It could be a good one to start after a cleaning.

Chewing dental treats like Whimzees or Yummy Combs on a regular basis. Whimzees are starch based and Yummy Combs have chicken in them. 

In severe cases, your vet will have to scale and possibly extract some teeth. 

Keep in mind, that dry food does not clean your pet’s teeth. First, they would have to chew it—most don’t. For pet’s who do chew dry food, whether consistently or occasionally, there is still little or no benefit. Kibble is an ultra-processed food and as such can contain substances that actually fuel inflammation in the body, including in the tissues of the mouth. Most kibble is starchy, and full of fillers that break down to sugar, which contributes to plaque and bacteria.

There’s a lot to keeping our pets healthy, like us, their teeth need care on a regular basis. If you haven’t yet, today is a good day to start. If you need help, come in and see us.