Wow. February is National Pet Dental Month, Responsible Pet Owner Month — and let’s give a round of applause for Love Your Pet Day on February 20 and National Dog Biscuit Day on February 23. There’s a lot to celebrate.
If you’re reading this, no doubt you are a responsible person who likes to take care of your pet’s teeth. Healthy biscuits are always a treat to celebrate National Dog Biscuit Day, but I have some dental treat ideas as well.
No matter how responsible you are, you may have a tough time doing dang-near anything with your pet’s mouth, so now is a good time to read up on some helpful hints.
Home Dental Care Recommendations
Our pets are living longer, and that means dental care is more important now than it ever was. We also know how many systemic diseases are linked with pet’s diseased mouth. In fact, oral disease is one of the most prevalent diseases in dogs and cats. This includes calculus build-up and gingivitis.
We have learned that our pets’ teeth need, in an ideal world, as much care as our own teeth require. Does this mean daily brushing and twice-a-year professional cleanings? For some pets with severe oral problems, yes. For others, a home dental routine is recommended.
If you have a new pet, start dental care early. Twice-a-week dental care in young animals will help prevent plaque accumulation and acclimate the young pet to having you in and around his mouth.
As the pet ages, every-other-day brushing is recommended. For older pets or pets with dental disease or specific oral conditions, daily home care is important.
Brushing Pets’ Teeth
Most of you probably know there are specific toothpastes (animal-friendly flavors) and toothbrushes for pets.
There is also a little implement that fits over your finger if a brush seems cumbersome. Pet toothpaste placed on a gauze and rubbed on the teeth is acceptable, too — your vet or vet tech can demonstrate.
Many clients buy dental products — out of guilt, perhaps — and place them on a high shelf at home, never to be used or seen again. Use what you buy or talk honestly with your vet about alternatives. For some, brushing is very difficult or out of the realm of reality. But there are alternatives.
Diets and Dental Chews
Dental diets have been proven to work. If brushing is impossible or if your pet has above-average plaque accumulation, use a dental diet.
Dental chews and treats are great alternatives as well. Many of these are highly palatable and great fun for your pet. Another win-win situation.
A helpful guide to keeping your dog’s teeth in tip-top shape:
Check the Label
Now it’s time to do some label shopping before purchasing diets or treats.
Products that say “veterinarian recommended” may not be all that good. Look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval. This seal was based on the American Dental Seal of Approval used for human products.
Some of my favorites for dogs are Greenies, Milk-Bone Brushing Chews and OraVet.
The list of treat products is shorter for cats. Feline dental diets really work — I have great success with Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d Feline Dental Care. Royal Canin dental diet runs a close second. Feline Greenies and Purina Pro Plan Dental Crunch Cat Snacks are effective and palatable dental treats.
Please don’t be cynical and think your vet is “pushing” dental procedures or products. You are probably just hearing more and more about your pet’s oral health because we know so much more about how to keep a pet’s mouth healthy. Many of the VOHC products, by the way, are OTC and do not have to be purchased from your vet.
The above info has been about home dental care. Many pets, depending on the severity of their dental disease, need frequent cleanings by your veterinarian followed by a home care program. I have seen amazing results when people can brush their pets’ teeth and find a combination of diet and treats, even for very diseased mouths.
Thanks to all you responsible people out there, and good luck with your pet dental endeavors.
This pet health content was written by a veterinarian, Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD. It was last reviewed Feb. 15, 2017.