Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.
If there were quick and simple things you could do to drastically improve overall pet health and have them live longer, healthier lives, wouldn’t you try them? As a small animal veterinarian, I commonly treat poor oral health and periodontal disease. Many times, my clients overlook cat and dog dental care, and underestimate the possible long-term consequences of periodontal disease. However, just like in humans, poor dental health can result in heart disease and an increased risk of cancer, diabetes and pancreatic disease, among others, leading to decreased life spans for our pets. Poor oral pet health can also be painful and uncomfortable, which is difficult for our pets to express, especially if the pain is minor or dull. There are many things we can do at home to not only improve our pets’ oral hygiene, but also their quality of life and overall well-being.
Proper Dog and Cat Dental Care and Disease Prevention
- At-Home Dental Care. The best thing that you can do to prevent periodontal disease in your pet is regular brushing with a soft-bristle pet toothbrush and pet-safe toothpaste followed by a pet-safe dental rinse. Starting a routine for cat and dog teeth cleaning early on with puppies and kittens will allow them to become comfortable with the feeling of a toothbrush in their mouth. While it’s slightly more difficult in adult dogs and cats, positive reinforcement is a great way to make daily brushing something to look forward to. While daily brushing is ideal in disease prevention and oral health, doing it twice per week can lead to dramatic improvements in your pet’s health and well-being.
- Dental Rinses and Wipes. Dental rinses and wipes are a great supplement to cleaning and should be used daily on canine teeth or cat teeth.
- Prescription Dental Diet. Diets specially formulated for dental health have larger kibble pieces that scrub your pet’s teeth while they eat. This can reduce plaque and tartar buildup and decrease the chance and severity of serious tooth and gum diseases. Talk to your veterinarian to see if a prescription pet food may be the right choice for your pets.
- Dental Chews. Giving your dog or cat just one dental treat per day will help prevent tartar buildup in canine teeth and cat teeth that can lead to serious oral disease. These are also great for reinforcement with brushing to create a pleasant experience for your pets. (Try dog dental chews or cat dental treats)
- No Sugars. Treats that are high in sugar are likely to worsen dental health problems and are best left out of pet food.
- Veterinarian Dental Checkups. Visiting your veterinarian regularly for an oral health examination is vital to your pet’s health. Though brushing, rinsing and specialized treats are great when it comes to dog and cat dental care, nothing can replace an annual or biannual teeth cleaning under anesthesia. Just like humans, professional canine teeth and cat teeth cleanings reach places that a toothbrush alone cannot.
I hope this guide inspires you to start, or continue, a routine for regular dog and cat dental care with your pets. We love and adore our animals so much that we want to do everything and anything to prevent disease and keep them living long, happy and healthy lives.