BY TANYA WYMAN, D.V.M. | JULY 21, 2010
What? Brush my dog’s teeth?
“Brush the dog’s teeth? You’ve got to be kidding me!” Ask any vet in the valley, and they’ll tell you they’ve heard this more times than they can count. Ironically, it’s usually being said by a very concerned pet owner, someone who wants their animal to have all the latest in veterinary preventative medicine, someone who considers their pet a part of the family.
In the past few years, pet dental hygiene has been shown to be one of the cornerstones of good preventative medicine. An untreated mouth can lead to larger health problems – more than just a deteriorating set of teeth and gums. Bacteria growing in the tartar can mobilize into the bloodstream and spread to major organs like the heart and kidneys. Infections in the major organs can be life threatening and difficult to treat.
“So you’re really serious about the toothbrush thing?” Yes! Take a good look into your dog or cat’s mouth. What do you see? What you would hope to se would be rows of clean, white teeth without any yellow, brown or green build up. You’d also want to see pink healthy gums with no redness or swelling around the teeth. If your pet is older than one or two years through, chances are good you will see at least one or two of the changes mentioned above.
What do you do about it? Your first step should be to consult with your veterinarian. If the changes in your pet’s mouth are mild enough, simply beginning a good at-home oral hygiene program will delay further problems. But if things have progressed from mild tartar to gingivitis or even periodontal disease, your vet may recommend dentistry.
Once the dentistry is performed, home care is a necessity. Brushing teeth is the mainstay of home care. Brushing does not mean your pet may never need a dentistry, but it will definitely increase the time between professional cleanings. The most effective technique involves using either a soft bristled toothbrush or a finger brush, and dog or cat toothpaste (nontoxic if swallowed). The outer surfaces of the teeth and gums are gently brushed or rubbed as thoroughly as possible. Most animals love the taste of their special toothpaste, and after a few tries they will start to enjoy their brushings. Puppy and kitten owners: start young! Accustoming your pet to fingers or brushes in its mouth at a young age makes lifelong care much simpler. Mouth sprays, rinses, and safe chew toys are also available, and can do a wonderful job at promoting good oral hygiene, if they are used consistently.
“It’s really that important, huh?” Once again, yes! Whether your pet is a pampered member of the family or earns its living by guarding or herding, good oral hygiene can make for happier and healthier animal (those diseased teeth and gums hurt!). The idea here is prevention: by taking care of the mouth, we may be preventing serious health problems involving the heart, kidneys, or liver later in life – not to mention the dental disease of the present. Wouldn’t it be nice to finally say goodbye to dog breath? Get a free toothbrush and paste or a bag of Hills® t/d (the edible toothbrush) when your pet receives a dental prophy! Visit www.ahsvet.com for details.