Pet Dental Care
Ten Steps to Your Pet's Dental Health
Did you know that regularly brushing your pet's teeth and providing his/her with a healthy diet and plenty of chew toys can go a long way toward keeping his/her mouth healthy? Many pets show signs of gum disease by the time they're three years old because they aren't provided with proper mouth care-and bad breath is often the first sign of a problem. Damage to the tongue, teeth, palate and gums can lead to many health risks, but these can be prevented with regular home check-ups and good old-fashioned tooth brushings. Follow these tips, and you'll have a very contented companinon with a dazzling smile.
1. The Breath Test
Go on, take a sniff. It doesn't have to be a long one-pet breath may not smell like roses, but it shouldn't be offensive either. If it is especially offensive and is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, it's a good idea to take your pooch to the vet.
2. Lip Service
Once a week, with your pet facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar, and none should be loose or broken.
3. Signs of Oral Disease
The following are signs that your pet may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian:
- Bad breath
- Excessive drooling
- Inflamed or swollen gums
- Dark red line along the gums
- Tumors in the gums
- Cysts under the tongue
- Loose teeth
- Ulcers on gums or tongue
- Difficulty chewing food
- Excessive pawing at the mouth area
At any sign of gum inflammation, you should take your pet in for a veterinary exam. If left untreated, gum disease can develop, possibly leading to tooth loss or inability to eat. Inflammation may also point to an internal problem like kidney disease or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus.
4. The Lowdown on Tooth Decay
Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause a buildup on your pet's teeth. This can harden into tartar, possibly causing gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss. The solution? Regular teeth cleanings at your veterinarian.
5. Tooth-Brushing Kit
All you'll need to brush your cat's teeth are cotton swabs and a small toothbrush and tube of toothpaste formulated for felines. Ask your vet to suggest the brushing supplies that he trusts, and be sure never to use toothpaste designed for people-the ingredients can be unhealthy for your cat.
Get yourself a toothbrush made especially for canines or a clean piece of soft gauze to wrap around your finger. Ask your vet for a toothpaste made especially for canines or make a paste out of baking soda and water.
6. Brightening the Pearly Whites
Taking these steps will make brushing a lot easier for the both of you:
· First get your pet used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Massage her lips with your finger in a circular motion for 30 to 60 seconds once or twice a day for a few weeks. Then move on to her teeth and gums.
· When your pet seems comfortable being touched this way, put a little bit of specially-formulated toothpaste on her lips to get her used to the taste.
· Next, introduce a toothbrush designed especially for your cat or dog-it should be smaller than a human toothbrush and have softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger (or a clean piece of gauze) are also available and allow you to give a nice massage to your pet'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 dog's gums are inflamed. If your has mild gingivitis, brushing too hard can hurt her gums.
7. Brushing Technique
Yes, there is actually a technique! Place the brush 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 pet'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 pet 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.
8. Know Your Mouth Disorders
Getting familiar with the possible mouth problems your pet may encounter will help you determine when it's time to see a vet about treatment:
· Periodontal disease is a painful infection between the tooth and the gum that can result in tooth loss and spread infection to the rest of the body. Signs are loose teeth, bad breath, tooth pain, sneezing and nasal discharge.
· Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums caused mainly by accumulation of plaque, tartar and disease-producing bacteria above and below the gum line. Signs include bleeding, red, swollen gums and bad breath. It is reversible with regular teeth cleanings.
· Halitosis-or bad breath-can be the first sign of a mouth problem and is caused by bacteria growing from food particles caught between the teeth or by gum infection. Regular tooth-brushings are a great solution.
· Swollen gums develop when tartar builds up and food gets stuck between the teeth. Regularly brushing your pet's teeth at home and getting annual cleanings at the vet can prevent tartar and gingivitis.
· Proliferating gum disease occurs when the gum grows over the teeth and must be treated to avoid gum infection. An inherited condition common to boxers and bull terriers, it can be treated with antibiotics.
· Mouth tumors appear as lumps in the gums. Some are malignant and must be surgically removed.
· Salivary cysts look like large, fluid-filled blisters under the tongue, but can also develop near the corners of the jaw. They require drainage, and the damaged saliva gland must be removed.
· Stomatitis: This inflammation of the mouth lining may result from a foreign body in the mouth, a viral disease or dental problems.
· Rodent Ulcer: A slowly enlarging sore or swelling on the upper lip.
· Mouth Ulcers: Ulcers on a cat's tongue and gums are sometimes caused by feline respiratory or kidney disease.
9. Chew on This
Chew toys can satisfy your pet's natural desire to chomp, while making her teeth strong. Gnawing on a chew toy can also help floss your pet's teeth, massage her gums and scrape away soft tartar.
P.S.: Gnawing also reduces your dog's overall stress level, prevents boredom and gives him an appropriate outlet for his natural need to chew.
10. Diet for Healthy Teeth
Ask your vet about a specially formulated dry food that can slow down the formation of plaque and tartar. Also, avoid feeding your pet table scraps, instead giving him treats that are specially formulated to keep canine teeth healthy.