Your Pets Need Good Dental Care, Too!

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month?
Pet Dental Health Month is an initiative of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to encourage pet owners to practice good oral care for cats and dogs.
Why Practice Good Oral Care for Your Pets?
According to an AVMA press release, « It is estimated that 80 percent of people brush their teeth every day, but far fewer pet owners do the same for their pets. Pet Dental Health Month, celebrated every February, teaches pet owners that proper dental hygiene is equally as important for their pets. »
The AVMA also reports that « periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed problem in dogs and cats. This can lead to painful infections of the mouth, and in severe cases these infections can spread and become life-threatening conditions. »
What Are Some Signs of Oral Problems in Your Pet?
Dogs:
The ASPCA lists the following six signs that your dog may have a problem in her mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inflamed gums
  • Tumors in the gums
  • Cysts under the tongue
  • Loose teeth

Cats:
Again according to the ASPCA, you should watch for any of the following signs that could indicate problems in your cat’s mouth:

  • Dark red line along the gums
  • Red and swollen gums
  • Ulcers on gums or tongue
  • Loose teeth
  • Pus
  • Difficulty chewing food
  • Excessive drooling
  • Excessive pawing at the mouth area

How Do You Brush Your Dog’s Teeth?
You’ll need a toothbrush made for dogs or a piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. You’ll also need toothpaste made for dogs. (Toothpaste made for people can irritate a dog’s stomach.) The ASPCA instructs dog owners to:

  • Place the toothbrush or your gauze-wrapped finger at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and clean in small, circular motions.
  • Work on one area of your dog’s mouth at a time, lifting her lip as necessary.
  • The side of the tooth that touches the cheek usually has the most tartar, and giving a final downward stroke can help to remove it.
  • If your dog resists having the inner surfaces of her teeth cleaned, don’t fight it—only a small amount of tartar accumulates there.
  • Once you get the technique down, go for a brushing two or three times a week.

How Do You Brush Your Cat’s Teeth?
You’ll need cotton swabs, a toothbrush made for cats, and toothpaste made for cats. The ASPCA instructs cat owners to:

  • First get your cat used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Start by gently massaging her gums with your fingers or touching a cotton swab to them.
  • After a few sessions, put a little bit of cat-formulated toothpaste on her lips to get her used to the taste.
  • Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for cats—it will be smaller than human toothbrushes and have softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger are also available and allow you to give a nice massage to your cat’s gums.
  • Finally, apply the toothpaste to her teeth for a gentle brushing.
  • A veterinary exam beforehand may be helpful to find out if your cat’s gums are inflamed. Many cats have mild gingivitis and brushing too hard can hurt their gums.