You meticulously choose their food, schedule routine checkups and give them plenty of exercise. But you’re not a dentist. How do you know what’s going on in your pet’s mouth?
At-home dental care can make a huge difference in their health. Whether your pet has a serious case of stinky breath or is just overdue for a cleaning, taking care of your little buddy’s teeth shouldn’t be daunting. But you do have to know what you’re looking for, and how to take care of it.
Gum Disease — It’s Not Just for Humans
Just like you, your pet can suffer from gum disease. And unfortunately, the early stages of gum disease typically go unnoticed because they’re virtually invisible to the naked eye. Veterinarians find that most dogs and cats have some degree of periodontal disease by the age of three. Set up an at-home dental care regimen early on to help decrease those odds for your pet.
Brushing is the first and foremost method of fighting plaque and gum disease, and pets.webmd.com offers a detailed slideshow to walk you through the process. But first, gather these supplies:
- Pet toothbrush (for dogs over 30 pounds, cats of any size)
- Finger brush (for dogs under 30 pounds, cats of any size)
- Dog- or cat-friendly toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste)
- A reward for good behavior
Daily brushing is recommended, but don’t expect to jump straight into that routine. Eventually your pet will understand what’s happening and won’t fight you (as much). If your pet has a healthy mouth, you’ll only need to brush three times a week. If you have questions about this process, set up an appointment and work with the veterinarian to set up a routine.
Pets.webmd.com suggests you can also fight dental disease and tartar buildup with treats and toys that increase chewing. In addition to a diet that includes dry food, there are plenty of other options to get those chompers moving.
- Dental chews, biscuits, bones: There are plenty of treats out there specifically made for fighting plaque, like CheckUps.
- Chew Toys: If your pet goes through other treats too quickly, chew toys specifically made for fighting plaque are a great option.
If you can’t get your pet to sit long enough to brush his teeth, try an antiseptic, recommends avcd.org. Chlorhexidine, the most effective anti-plaque antiseptic, is available as a gel or liquid. Chlorhexidine is safe for pets and has few negative side effects — although they may not be too fond of the taste.
To apply the antiseptic:
- Smear the gel onto the side of the teeth. If you have a jumpy pet, it may be safer for your fingers if you use a toothbrush or finger brush to smear the gel.
- If you have the liquid, spray a small amount on each side of their mouth.
So now what?
So you’ve bought all of the tools, made a plan and you’re ready to get started! The next step to setting up an at-home dental care regime is knowing when and how to approach your pet. To make this process easier, try these steps:
- Gather your supplies ahead of time.
- Wait for your pet to be comfortable and relaxed.
- Rub your finger along his gums and teeth to get him used to this feeling.
- Let your dog taste the toothpaste before using it on the toothbrush.
As you’re starting up this routine, reassure your pet. This is most likely a new experience and it might be a bit scary, so be sure to cut Fluffy some slack and back off if anxiety levels are too high.