Oral Hygiene for Dogs and Cats

Dirty mouths can lead to aggression, mouth and tooth decay, bad breath, weight loss, and illness. How often do you think about the importance of clean teeth for your pet? For many of us it isn’t until we smell bad breath, so we pass out dental treats to freshen them up. Bad breath is usually a first warning sign that your pet is experiencing dental problems. Dental conditions usually start to appear during middle age but precautions and at home dental hygiene should be practiced as young as 6 months old.

Signs and screening of oral dental diseases and cleaning

Unlike us, pets are not able to tell us when they are in pain. Signs often go unnoticed by owners and are passed off as something else such as being grumpy, or not hungry. This may still be true, but these behaviors could be coming from an underlying cause in many situations.

During your animal’s wellness check each year your veterinarian will check their teeth and gums. Signs and symptoms that they will be looking for are as follows:

● Bad breath

● Loose teeth or teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar

● Your pet shies away from you when you touch the mouth area

● Drooling or dropping food from the mouth

● Bleeding from the mouth

● Loss of appetite or unwanted weight loss

If these signs and/or symptoms are present then your vet will address dental hygiene care that best suits your pet, your ability to implement at home care, as well as cost for you. The most common option for mild causes is for a dental cleaning to be done by your vet or a vet that specializes in oral health. Your vet will be able to tell you if they do this procedure at their office. Much like when we go to the dentist your pet’s mouth will be cleaned, teeth will be ridden of built up plaque and under their gums will be checked to determine if more treatment may need to be done. In bad cases you pet will need to have radiographs of all their teeth done under anesthesia to see internal anatomy of the teeth, the roots and the bone that surrounds the roots to be examined. Some veterinarians will request you approve this in all levels of oral hygiene screening as a preventative measure.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is the most common but also the most preventable clinical condition in both dogs and cats that do not have regular dental hygiene care. Periodontal disease includes gingivitis and periodontitis, loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth. By 3 years old most pets have evidence of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, this is not highly evident to the eyes of an owner and is needed to be diagnosed by a veterinarian. Unnoticed or untreated, this disease will lead to an extensive disease that is related to loss of teeth, numerous problems in the oral cavity and may be associated to damage to internal organs as the pet ages.

The most common treatment is a thorough oral examination, scaling and polishing and several treatment options to be employed to save the teeth. However, veterinarians are focused on their patient’s overall health and willingness from the owner to take the necessary steps for treatment for the remainder of the pet’s life span. If accountability is questioned by the vet on the owner’s part they will forgo trying to save the teeth and will extract them to prevent future damage and pain for the animal.

At home daily, oral hygiene care

At home regular oral hygiene care can be very simple and be done daily, bi-daily or weekly depending on what preventive care option is best for both your pet and your wallet. Preventive care should be started young with most products being safe for animals over 6 months old. Every product is different and feeding instructions and warnings should be read before administering it to your pet.

Walking into a pet store or scanning the pet section in the grocery store you will find many assorted products that are labeled and “proven” to be dental care products. Unfortunately, any business can write this on their labels if the product provides the ingredients for oral care but not all of these products are successful in prevention of oral diseases. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC¬Æ) awards a Seal of acceptance to products that successfully meet preset criteria for effectiveness in controlling plaque and tartar deposition in dogs and cats. On their website and attached below are all the approved products for your pet. Some of these products can be found at a pet store while others are sold by vets. Chewy.com offers a lot of vet sold dental products that can be shipped to your door without a prescription if going to the vet office to refill on dental products is not ideal. Along with dental treats, brushing your pet’s teeth daily or weekly can help improve teeth health and prevention.

http://www.vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Dogs.pdf

http://www.vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Cats.pdf

Happy dog, happy life, happy owner

Dogs and cats live healthier longer and happier lives with good oral hygiene. Since they get their vitamins and supplements through their food they can enjoy their meals, will not show aggression when their mouths are touched and will also not act out due to being in pain. Owners who had dental treatment on their pet who may be showing signs of periodontal disease or even worse have observed that their pet acts “years younger” afterwards.

Oral hygiene care at home can be easily done through VOHC¬Æ approved treats and with or without dental brushing your pet’s teeth regularly. It is not recommended to only brush their teeth without the supplement of dental treats as owners cannot get up in-between teeth or high up into the gum lines. Dental treats are made to be chewed in a manner that can clean these areas where plaque can build up. It is important to never over feed the daily recommended treats to your pet as these have cleaning ingredients that if too much is ingested can lead to upset stomachs. Remember, early care can help prevent future pain, diseases and excessive costs and lead to a happy healthier longer life for you

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