You already know that keeping your teeth fresh and clean doesn’t just give you a great smile—it’s also important for your overall health. But did you know it’s just as important to keep your cat and dog's teeth clean? Doggy breath can be bad enough, but neglected teeth can lead to gingivitis, an early phase of gum disease. Left untreated, gingivitis will develop into periodontitis, which is a serious infection of the supporting structures of the teeth. Periodontal disease—both in humans and in pets—is linked with other serious systemic health issues, including heart disease, kidney failure and arthritis.
5 Steps to Good Oral Health
As part of a healthy lifestyle and to help reduce the risk of oral disease, follow these five steps to good oral health.
1) See your vet regularly
An oral health checkup is part of every vet visit. With regular exams, your vet can help stop small problems from getting worse. They can let you know if you are doing a good job of keeping your pet’s teeth clean or if it’s time for professional care.
2) Keep your pet’s mouth clean
Brush your pet’s teeth. (Yes, really!) The best time to start is when your pet is a young puppy or kitten—they will grow up knowing that tooth-brushing is just a regular part of life. However, with a little bit of patience, your adult dog or cat can get used to this important bit of healthcare, too.
Dr. Chip Coombs, Chief Veterinary Officer at Pets Plus Us, reminds us not to use human toothpaste for your dog or cat. “Most human toothpastes include detergents, which your pet will swallow during brushing. This will likely cause vomiting,” says Dr. Chip. “You can find safe toothpastes formulated for dogs and cats from your veterinarian. They even come in delicious flavours like chicken or beef!”
3) Watch what you feed
It’s commonly believed that dry kibble is better for your pet’s teeth than canned food. The fact is, studies show there’s little difference between the two in preventing tartar build-up. There are, however, very good dry diets specifically designed to mechanically scrape the inside and outside of the teeth while your pet eats. Tartar control pet food is available through your vet, or in some pet stores. “In the wild, this mechanical cleaning action is achieved by the gnawing on hides and raw bones. However, feeding bones—even raw ones—means risking an intestinal puncture,” says Dr. Chip, “Avoiding bones altogether is the more prudent approach.”
4) Check your cat or dog’s mouth regularly
Chances are, your pet’s breath will never smell like roses—and that’s okay. But if their breath is seriously stinky, they could have bigger problems. Here are some other things Dr. Chip suggests you watch for:
- Loose teeth
- Tartar (yellowish-brown material that builds up along the gum line)
- Excessive drooling
- Discoloured, broken, missing or crooked teeth
- Red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums
- Bumps or growths within the mouth
Also watch for pawing at the face or mouth or changes in eating habits. Report any problems you notice to your vet.
5) Let them play with chew toys
There are many types of chew toys specially designed to strengthen and clean your dog’s gums and teeth. Consider rope toys that help floss your dog’s teeth, kongs or hard rubber toys with lots of bumpy texture.
Following these steps can help your pets keep their pearly whites—and their good health—for years to come. Make it part of your regular visits to the veterinarian. Preventive dental care is covered under the Pets Plus Us Wellness Care pet insurance plan.