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Teeth and our Pets

IN THE December 31 ISSUE

FROM THE 2011 Articles,
andPets,
andSheryl Wall
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by Sheryl Wall

Can you imagine what our teeth would be like if we never brushed them? All the decay, infection, and tooth loss would be horrendous. Yet how many of us never brush our pets’ teeth?

I used to be an owner who didn’t brush my pet’s teeth, but my first cat had to have all his teeth removed to save his life. His teeth were causing him health concerns where there was no other option. I never want to experience that again and I now realize the importance of teeth and our pet’s health.

I learned from my vet that a dog’s breath is caused by oral problems such as Periodontal Disease. If left untreated it could cause complications in other parts of a dog’s body such as the kidneys. Dogs and cats can also get abscessed teeth which can be very painful and expensive, yet necessary to be removed.

There are some simple steps to take to help our pets’ teeth stay healthy. The first step to take is to buy toothpaste made for dogs and cats. Human toothpaste shouldn’t be used because they can’t spit it out and it is not made to swallow. Plus, the foaming would be unpleasant for them. They make toothpaste out of flavors dogs and cats love such as liver and chicken. Next is to choose a toothbrush. You can use a human toothbrush however the ones they make for pets are easier to use because they are formed to fit better in a pet’s mouth. The finger toothbrush is another good option that can work well. My dogs prefer the angled brushes over the finger ones so try out the options and see what your pet likes best.

If you haven’t ever brushed your dogs teeth, you will have to get them used to the idea first. You want it to be a pleasant experience otherwise they will fight you all the way, and I find cats are even more stubborn about it then dogs on average. According to Puppy Care & Training by Teoti Anderson, putting peanut butter on your finger and then using your finger to feel around your dogs mouth is a good first step. You can also put some dog toothpaste on your finger before using a brush, most dogs tend to like the taste. Giving treats to train your dog to like the toothbrush is another option. This can work with cats as well. I know that it is hard to brush daily. I find that it works for me to brush their teeth every other day and use a dental spray on the days I don’t brush. Even if you brush once or twice a week, it will cut down on dental problems. A little effort is better then none at all.

Teeth brushing is just one step to take in caring for your pets’ teeth. There are many toys, chews and treats out there that are made to help reduce tarter build up as well. You will have to try them out and see what works best for your dogs and cats. These are good options but nothing replaces a good brushing.

Another step to take is going to your vet for dental cleanings. The cleanings are not cheap but if you keep up the dental care at home it is likely to reduce how often you need professional cleaning. And, the vet cleanings in the long run will keep your pet healthier and reduce vet bills for abscessed teeth and other health concerns caused by dental problems.

Start now, whether you have a young pup/kitten or a senior dog/cat. It is never too late to care for your pets’ teeth. Cleaner teeth makes a happier and healthier pet.

Sheryl Wall is an ongoing contributor to our
Pet Perspective section, providing pet care advice from years of personal experience.

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