Dental Care for Pets

Proper dental hygiene is just as important for pets as it is for humans.

Like us, pets develop periodontal disease. Pet parents need to work with their veterinarian to prevent it or detect it in the early stages. As it advances, it can cause intense pain and severe problems associated with kidney, liver and heart muscles.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is a bacterial infection of the teeth and tissues, above and below the gum line. It starts as a bacterial film called plaque. As the bacteria attaches to the teeth, it hardens if it isn't brushed off or rubbed off by chews or hard food. In a few days, plaque can harden into calculus, furthering gingivitis. The combination of infection and inflammation can lead to bone loss in the jaw, loose teeth and chronic pain.

Dogs and cats are excellent at hiding periodontal disease, but some signs include bad breath, only eating on one side of the mouth, no longer wanting to chew on toys and changes in behavior.

There are two ways to help prevent periodontal disease.

First, regularly visit your veterinarian for checkups. Your veterinarian will inspect your pet's teeth and recommend professional cleaning when necessary. Anesthesia-free dental cleaning is not a recommended substitute for a veterinarian visit or dental procedures under anesthesia. Even though the visible portion of the teeth may be clean, there could be more severe issues under the gum line that are not addressed during an anesthesia-free cleaning.

Second, perform regular dental care at home. The recommended dental care for your pet is teeth brushing at least five days a week with dog/cat specific flavored toothpaste. Patience, training and positive reinforcement are keys to success with brushing. If necessary, supplement brushing with dental chews, veterinary dental diets and treats.

Finally, remember safety and health first. Find a low-calorie option for an overweight dog. Watch your pet as they enjoy chews. And, remember pets should never use human toothpaste as it contains xylitol, which is toxic to animals.

Ask a Chuck & Don's team member for home dental care options. As always, ask a veterinarian about any dental concerns.

Reviewed by Dr. Parks of Nokomis Pet Clinic

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