Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Jan 31, 2013 | General Health

Reduce Pet Dental Disease with Preventive Oral Care: A Guide to Brushing Teeth

brush-teeth-front-300x225Brushing your pet’s teeth or scheduling a dental appointment with your veterinarian might be low on your pet care list, but there’s good reason to make preventive pet dental care a priority. According to recent studies, the most common aliment veterinarians diagnose is dental disease. The sad news is that over 65% of cats and 75% of dogs over the age of three have some level of periodontal disease which, left untreated, can lead to infection, severe pain and other health problems like heart disease.

The good news is that dental disease is preventable and treatable. Join Doylestown Veterinary Hospital in celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month during February and learn why preventive daily care and professional cleanings are vital to your pet’s overall wellness.

Good dental health care is no different for our pets than it is for us: brush teeth daily and see a professional for exams and cleanings. One without the other does not guarantee a problem-free mouth. No matter how stellar our daily dental hygiene routine is, cavities happen and tartar scraping at the gum line is necessary! Professional exams, dental x-rays and cleanings on dogs and cats must be performed by a veterinarian.

“It’s understandable how pet owners might think that 3 years old is young for a dog or cat to have dental disease, so it’s important to look at it in human terms. Imagine if you didn’t brush your teeth until you were over 30. That’s how old your cat is in human years by the time it reaches three,” said Dr. Laura Weis, who owns Doylestown Veterinary Hospital and Holiday House Pet Resort with her husband Dr. Randy Weis.

Roscoe-teeth-check-2-224x300Guide to Brushing
Daily teeth brushing should start around eight to twelve weeks old so it quickly becomes part of your pet’s routine, but you may need to suspend cleanings or use a gentle brush as their permanent teeth emerge. Brushing every day is best, but even a couple times a week is better than not brushing at all.

  • Begin when your pet is calm and quiet, gently lifting up her lips and rubbing your finger tip along the outside surface of her gums.
  • Use gentle praise and offer a reward of a tiny dollop of pet toothpaste for calm acceptance, but don’t treat brushing as a game.
  • Spend only a few seconds in the mouth, gradually increasing the time to a minute or more.
  • Move to using your finger wrapped in a thin washcloth or a soft veterinary toothbrush and pet toothpaste which comes in a variety of flavors like chicken, liver and tuna. Never use human toothpaste!
  • Angle your finger or the brush at 45 degrees to the teeth and gently massage from the tip of the tooth to the crown in circular motions.

Plaque and tartar can also be reduced by feeding your pet food that’s specifically formulated to promote dental health like Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d, Science Diet Oral Care or Eukanuba Adult Maintenance Diet. There are also a variety of dental treats and oral gels and sprays to complement brushing.

“Taking preventive steps over the lifetime of your pet may reduce the impact of bad oral health and the costs associated with managing acute dental disease. We believe dental wellness is an important aspect of your pet’s care, so Doylestown Veterinary Hospital offers guidance in brushing technique to our clients, and grooming services at Holiday House Pet Resort offers teeth brushing,” added Dr. Laura Weis.

If you’ve adopted a young or adult pet, it’s never too late to begin a preventive dental program. At Doylestown Veterinary Hospital, annual exams include inspection of your pet’s mouth; this is a great time to discuss daily care and the benefits of a professional dental cleaning. Also, if you notice a change in the odor of your pet’s breath, a cracked or loose tooth, or a change in behavior or eating habits, call your veterinarian to schedule an exam.