— We all know that our teeth are important. We even visit our dentist regularly to have teeth cleanings and oral exams. Keeping our teeth clean is vital to our health and well-being, and that is no different for our pets.
"Ideally, you should brush your pet's teeth daily," states Dr. Johnathon Dodd, clinical professor at Texas A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Make sure you are using special toothpaste that is made for pets and is safe for them to swallow. They cannot spit or rinse like we do, so our pets need specific kinds of toothpaste that is not harmful if ingested."
Having your pet’s teeth inspected and cleaned is an important responsibility many owners overlook. This seemingly slight slip of your pet's dental care could be causing serious problems in your pet’s mouth.
Gum disease is the most common disease occurring in pets today. It results from the build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth around the gums. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gum tissue if it accumulates, which leads to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth.
After plaque has formed hard dental tartar, calcium salts from saliva that has been deposited on plaque, begins to grow. If the surface of the tooth does not stay clean, tartar begins to form within a few days.
The un-brushed tooth provides a surface that boosts further plaque accumulation. If plague is allowed to accumulate, tartar is difficult to remove without dental instruments.
For our pets gum disease means bad breath and painful, irritated gums that can lead to bleeding, loss of appetite, and the loss of teeth if the roots have been affected.
There is also the possibility that if the bacteria surrounding the root of the tooth gains access to the bloodstream, it can lead to microscopic damage of the heart, liver, and kidney. As the severity of the gum disease increases, so does the damage.
The best way to ward off potential oral disease in your pet is by keeping your pet’s teeth clean and checkups regular.
Your veterinarian and local pet retail stores should carry toothbrushes and toothpaste for your pets. Different flavors of toothpastes are available for dog and cats.
"Your pet needs to get their teeth cleaned yearly," said Dodd. "Most veterinary clinics should offer dental cleaning services, but if they do not they can refer you to someone who does."
To help ward off gum diseases and bad breath, there are products you can feed your pet that help improve and promote oral health.
"There are certain dog treats that help promote good dental health," said Dodd. "The right kind of treat should crumble, be easily crushed, and contain chlorhexadine or a hydrogen peroxide-type additive that can help with the bacteria count in the animal's mouth. Balancing this bacteria count can help prevent and get rid of bad breath."
A helpful guide to go by when considering your pets' oral health is the Veterinary Oral Health Council website. They have a compiled list of products that are intended to help reduce the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth of animals and have created the VOHC seal of approval. To see the full list of VOHC approved products visit www.vohc.org.
Brushing your pet's teeth, taking them for a yearly visit to the dentist, and giving them VOHC approved products are all ways that you can help make sure your pet has a clean and healthy mouth.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.