Dental health in dogs and cats may sometimes be overlooked by pet owners. However, just like humans, pets need regular dental cleanings to keep their gums and teeth healthy.
As part of pet dental health month, Dr. J.R. “Bert” Dodd, a clinical professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explained some common dental hygiene issues in dogs and cats.
“Poor oral hygiene in dogs and cats can lead to excess tartar, swellings in the mouth, and severe wear of the teeth (or broken teeth) from chewing on inappropriate objects,” he said.
In addition, neglected oral health can also lead to gum disease, which left untreated, can make your pet more susceptible to other health complications. For example, bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body and cause infections.
Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy is easier than you think. While your veterinarian can help through routine dental check-ups and treatments, most dental hygiene issues can be prevented at home.
“It is best to begin home care when your puppy or kitten is between 8 and 12 weeks old; however, it is never too late to start,” Dodd said. “The first step is to train your pet to accept the brushing of their teeth. The best approach is to establish a routine of brushing your pet’s teeth with gauze that is wrapped around your finger. It may be helpful to use beef or chicken broth with dogs or tuna water with cats to get them accustomed to the routine instead of using cleaning agents.
“Once your pet is familiar with the daily routine, you can switch out the gauze for a finger brush or a soft toothbrush,” he said. “Then you can incorporate using veterinarian-approved pet toothpaste.”
Even if you do regularly care for your pet’s teeth, you should visit the veterinarian if your pet has persistent bad breath or experiences bleeding from the mouth or tooth, a change in eating behavior, and sensitivity to touch around the mouth; this may be a sign of a more serious dental health condition, Dodd said.
Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy can help them live a longer, healthier life, so as part of pet dental health month, consider making a veterinary appointment to have your pet’s teeth examined. Your pet will thank you with a smile.
Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.