Oral Hygiene

Oral Hygiene for Pets

oral hygiene for pets

Oral hygiene for pets is sometimes overlooked but is an important part of your pet’s overall health, just like nutrition and exercise. As with humans, preventative care is critical to catching potential problems early and helping to avoid more serious issues in the future.

Beyond Professional Cleaning

All pets need regular dental cleanings every 6-12 months. Speak with your veterinarian about putting your pet on an antibiotic after a cleaning to protect them from the potential for transient bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream) that may occur in patients following a routine dental cleaning.

In addition to dental cleanings, a home dental care program is a must for all pets since plaque and tartar begin forming again shortly after a cleaning. Periodontal disease can be responsible for many conditions in your pet, including foul breath, tooth and bone loss, inability to eat properly due to oral pain (resulting in weight loss) and dental abscesses. It can also lead to diseases in other areas of the body such as the liver, heart, kidneys and lungs because bacteria along the gumline can travel to these organs.

Here are some good oral hygiene practices to incorporate into your home care program to keep your pet’s dental health in check.

Tooth Brushing

The “gold standard” of preventing plaque from reforming is daily tooth brushing. Some useful tips:

  • Toothpaste isn’t absolutely necessary as abrasion on the tooth’s surface is the most important factor when cleaning. But toothpaste does have enzymes that help break down plaque.
  • If using toothpaste, use a veterinary one. Never use human toothpaste, as it is toxic to animals.
  • You don’t necessarily need a toothbrush. A piece of pantyhose or a small gauze pad wrapped around the end of your finger can be used to gently abrade the tooth and gumline.
  • If using a toothbrush, always use a soft bristled one.
  • Pay extra attention to the top teeth in the back, as extra tartar can collect there.
  • If your pet is resistant, try to use conditioning. Give them a treat first, then brush a little. Continue in this manner as necessary.
  • Aim for brushing daily but do the best you can if your pet is giving you trouble and work up to a daily routine.

Quality Diet

Diet is another important part of dental health. While a lot of pets will get used to brushing, especially if you begin when they’re young, some pets continue to be stressed by the process.

If this is the case, your pet may be a good candidate for a special “dental diet” consisting of dry food and treats that help scrub teeth while chewing, essentially cutting down on plaque accumulation.

If your pet needs to be on a canned diet, you’ll want to closely monitor their mouth since plaque builds up more quickly with wet food.

Chew Time and Oral Rinses

Veterinary approved dental chews, pet-safe chew toys and oral rinses are also available. Talk with your veterinarian to see if any of these items are recommended for use in conjunction with tooth brushing and a good diet.

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