Just like us, our pets' dental health is crucial to their wellbeing. It may seem like a pain, but taking care of your dog or cat's teeth is an important part of being a pet parent. Poor dental health can lead to gum disease, gingivitis, or even worse problems.
But don't worry: all that is easily preventable. Here are 6 tips for improving your pet's dental health.
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Brush their teeth every day
If your pet isn't wild about the idea of you messing around in their mouth, start slowly. Banfield Pet Hospital recommends building a nice routine around brushing your pet's teeth. Start by settling into one of your pet's favorite spots and hold them in your lap. Next, touch your pet's mouth gently. After that, introduce a bit of toothpaste on your finger, and try rubbing it on their teeth. Take it nice and slow, and work your way up to the actual brushing.
Use a pet-formulated toothpaste
Make sure you're using a toothpaste that's specifically formulated for pets. There are lots of options on Amazon and in pet stores. Make sure not to use toothpaste for humans, as it might contain xylitol, which is poisonous to cats and dogs.
Get their teeth professionally cleaned annually
Dogs and cats should have their teeth cleaned annually starting around the age of three. While anesthesia-free tooth descaling is available and cheaper than "normal" tooth cleaning, the American Veterinary Dental College recommends opting to put your pet under anesthesia to get their teeth cleaned. This is because without putting your pet under, the vet can't reach below the gumline of the pet, which is where many dental problems are lurking.
Call your vet to ask for pricing —the price for both types of cleaning will vary based on vet and region.
Add some pet dental rinse to their water
Did you know you can add a few drops of pet-safe mouthwash to your pet's water bowl to help improve their oral health? It's true! It shouldn't be used as a substitute for brushing, but a dental rinse like Vets Preferred Dog Breath Freshener is a great way to help fight plaque, reduce bacteria, and freshen your pet's breath.
Give them dental chews
Dental chews aren't a substitute for brushing or for annual cleanings, but they can have a "positive impact" on your pet's dental health, according to Dr. Michael Tuder, the owner and director of four animal hospitals in Hudson County, New Jersey. Dental chews work because the chewy texture allows a dog's teeth to sink into them, causing a scraping motion against the tooth. This scraping motion helps remove plaque from your pet's mouth.
Stay on top of bad breath
No one is crazy about the way that dogs' and cats' breath smells on any given day. However, if you notice your pet's breath changes drastically in scent or that it smells particularly foul, a visit to the vet is in order. Bad breath could be related to tooth decay or gum disease.
Give them chew toys
The American Veterinary Dental College states that chew toys for dogs can be an effective means of controlling plaque, but only if they are used frequently and over long periods of time. If you get a chew toy for your dog and they don't want to chew on it, try putting peanut butter on it.
You can also purchase chew toys for cats, though the same holds true: they're only effective if used frequently and throughout the cat's life. It's easier to get a dog to take to a chew toy than a cat, but if your cat enjoys playing with chew toys, so much the better —they're good for their dental health!
The key to good dental health for your pet is to stay on top of it consistently. Preventative care goes a long way. Brush your pet's teeth every day and take them for their annual cleanings, and your pet will thank you.