When it comes to caring for pets, it’s easy to remember the big stuff: food, daily walks, emptying the litter box, trips to the groomer and vet… But for some reason, proper dental care isn’t typically top of mind.
Dental hygiene is very important for people and pets, alike. Poor dental health can cause—or result from—a variety of other health issues. Therefore, it’s essential to brush your four-legged friend’s choppers regularly and have his or her teeth and gums examined by a veterinarian at least once a year.
Brushing 101: How to Get It Done
In order to help prevent your dog or cat’s from developing cavities, oral disease and related health problems, you have to rid his or her teeth of dental plaque and tartar. That’s where regular brushing comes in!
Brushing your pet’s teeth on a frequent basis is the best way to keep them healthy between veterinary cleanings. Daily brushing is recommended, but some furry friends (especially cats) simply won’t have it. For finicky felines and uncooperative canines, aim for at least several times a week.
The ideal time to train your pet to accept tooth brushing is when he or she is very young. But older cats and dogs can come around to—and even grow to enjoy—this healthy practice.
Follow these 8 tips to help their smiles sparkle:
- Use a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for pets (ingredients in human toothpaste can be harmful and even toxic)
- If your pet rejects the toothbrush, try using a small amount of toothpaste applied to your fingertip
- Give your pet a little taste of toothpaste to familiarize them with the flavor
- Don’t be afraid to lift your pet’s lips for better access to the teeth and gums
- Use gentle motions to brush your pet’s teeth and gums
- Focus on the outside surface of the teeth, as it is uncommon for pets to allow brushing of the inside surfaces
- Focus on the canines and back molars, which are known to accumulate tartar
- Practice positive reinforcement by rewarding your pet with play, belly rubs and/or healthy treats to communicate a job well done!
If your pet simply won’t let you near his or her grill, not to worry! Luckily, you can help your fur baby achieve and maintain pearly whites without a fight. There are a number of available products, such as Ark Naturals Breath-Less Brushless Toothpaste and Greenies Total Oral Health Solution Dog Treats, that look and taste like a delicious treat but actually do the brushing for you!
When to Get to the Vet, Stat!
Although annual check-ups are recommended, your pup or kitten may require more frequent dental exams from the vet. Contact your pet’s practitioner immediately if your furry family member experiences any of the following symptoms:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Loose, broken or discolored teeth
- Extra teeth (baby teeth that haven’t fallen out)
- Abnormal chewing or drooling
- Decreased appetite or reluctance to eat
- Pain, swelling or bleeding in or around the mouth