You may already have a set routine of brushing and flossing to take care of your teeth, but have you ever thought about the dental health of your four-legged friends? There were over 2,000 walk-in medical facilities in the United States as of 2016 that can handle any number of human medical issues. Yet, animals only have veterinarians they visit once or twice a year to spot major medical issues. As your pet’s owner you can — and should — do daily tasks to care for their health.
This regular care includes tending to their teeth. Before we dive into how you can care for your pet’s teeth, let’s explore the reasons why you need to in the first place.
The Importance Of Dental Health For Pets
Our furry friends are just as susceptible to dental disease as humans are. In fact, they may be more at risk because of how they use their mouths the way humans use hands. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is extremely common in humans and affects 47.2% of adults who are 30 years old and over. The majority of dogs and cats have evidence of periodontal disease by the time they are just three years old.
If your cat or dog has dental disease, they may be at risk for further oral problems as well as issues with other organs such as the heart. By taking care of your pet’s teeth, you can then avoid dealing with — and paying for — more complicated health issues and dental extractions down the road.
When you take care of your pet’s teeth, they’ll also have breath that smells better. For the four-legged companions who like to cuddle up close to their humans, eliminating bad breath can make a big difference.
How To Take Care Of Your Pet’s Teeth
There are a few different ways you can make sure your pet has healthy chompers. The first step is to start brushing your pet’s teeth every day. This may seem excessive, but bacteria that cause dental disease can reform on the surface of teeth in just 24 to 36 hours. This speed means that brushing every few days or once a week won’t be very effective.
First, make sure you are in a relaxed environment with your pet. Research has shown that doing puzzles can psychologically relax the human brain, putting it in a meditative state. You want your pet’s mind to be in a similarly meditative place.
You’ll want to train your pet for teeth brushing by using positive reinforcement. Get them used to the toothpaste by putting a pea-sized amount of pet toothpaste in their mouth. Then, immediately reward them with a treat or toy. Over the next few days, gradually increase the amount of time between applying the toothpaste and giving the reward.
You can then put a small amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush or finger brush. Slowly introduce it to their mouth and then follow up with a reward. From there you can work up to brushing their teeth, focusing on the outer surfaces that face the lip and away from the gum line.
If your pet won’t allow you to come near their mouth with toothpaste or a brush, you can use other products to clean their teeth. There are food and water additives for both dogs and cats that focus on dental health. Some pet food even has dental-friendly properties built into the kibble itself. You can also use dental chews that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council to help your pet have healthy teeth.
Keep in mind that different species have different dental care needs. Herbivores like rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and hamsters will need ongoing dental care to keep their teeth in good shape, specifically because their teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. To learn more about dental care for herbivores, contact an exotic pet vet.
Taking care of your pet’s teeth can seem daunting. Luckily, it will soon become as simple as every other task you do for them. Keep with a regular dental routine and you will be giving your beloved pet the best life possible.