February is National Pet Dental Month!
Does your pet’s breath stink? You are not alone. Bad breath is one of the most common complaints among dog and cat owners. Oral health care in our four-legged friends is very important since dental disease can have negative side effects on the entire body. One of the best things you can do for your furry family member is to start an oral health care regimen at home. Brushing your pet’s teeth is one of the best ways to keep those pearly whites healthy by manually removing the plaque (a mixture of saliva and bacteria) build up. Use these helpful tips to get started:
* Toothbrush with extra soft bristles (or a fingerbrush)
* Enzymatic pet toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste as this can upset their stomachs)
* Brushing should always be associated with an enjoyable experience. Keep your pet calm by using positive reinforcement with treats and praise.
* Start the first few days with a small amount of toothpaste on your finger and rub it along their gums. This process will allow your pet to become accustomed to the taste of the toothpaste and someone touching their lips. If a pet is resistant at this point, the toothpaste can be replaced with chicken broth, tuna or a small amount of peanut butter for flavoring.
* The following week, use a small amount of toothpaste on a piece of gauze. Wrap the gauze around your finger slide it along the gumline. Don’t forget the treats and praise! This process may take longer for some pets.
* Ultimately, you will progress to a toothbrush (or fingerbrush) with toothpaste on it. You want to concentrate on brushing the outside of the upper teeth as this is where the most tartar builds up. Hold your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle and make small circular motions along the gumline and tooth.
* Ideally it is recommended to brush daily, but even 3-4 times per week is helpful. If at any time your pet seems uncomfortable or has bleeding along the gumline for 2-3 days in a row, please consult your veterinarian as this may be a sign of dental disease. Keep in mind that many adult pets already have dental disease. If this is the case, a professional dental cleaning by your veterinarian is necessary before starting to brush since most tartar (hardened plaque) build up cannot be removed by brushing alone.
Good luck and remain patient!
– Dr. Freihaut