February is National Pet Dental Month, but here at the clinic, we discuss the importance of dental health in the exam room every day. Good dental hygiene is paramount for overall health. Just as in humans, we know that dental disease in dogs and cats can be a source of pain and infection that can affect the rest of the body’s organ functions. In conjunction with routine anesthetic dental evaluations and cleanings, we can improve our pets’ health substantially by helping them at home.
Brushing teeth is the best form of at-home dental disease prevention. Here are some tips and tricks for both dogs and cats:
- Get your pet used to the idea of tooth brushing by lifting their upper lip up and down. Do this for a few days before moving on to rubbing their teeth with your finger. Follow with a treat reward for positive reinforcement. Then you are ready to slowly introduce the toothbrush.
- Brushing should be done at least three times a week to be effective – daily is ideal if you are able. Most people find success remembering to brush their pets’ teeth by incorporating it into their own routine.
- Pet toothbrushes can range from finger brushes to a full-size toothbrush. Any soft-bristled toothbrush will do. While brushing make sure the bristles gently clean under the gum line and you only need to brush the outer side of the teeth.
- Never use human toothpaste, the fluoride found in human toothpaste can be harmful to your pet. Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of tasty flavors. If pet toothpaste causes your pet to lick and drool excessively, try just using water.
- Keep in mind that if your pet has existing dental disease brushing can be painful. Have any oral concerns addressed by your veterinarian first, before beginning tooth brushing.
If you have tried all of the above, and your pet still will not allow toothbrushing then consider other alternatives like a prescription dental diet or dental treats such as C.E.T. chews, Check-ups, or Greenies. A good rule of thumb is to not give your pet anything to chew on that you cannot make a dent in with your fingernail!