When you think about taking care of your pets, you probably consider things like regular vet check-ups, vaccinations, and flea control. You also probably know that regular grooming and exercise, and a proper diet are critical to your furry friend’s overall health. But, have you thought much about pet dental care? If not, you’re not alone. Many people don’t think about brushing their pet’s teeth, much less having regular dental check-ups for their pets.
However, staying on top of your dog or cat’s dental hygiene is super important and can affect many other areas of your pet’s overall health.
Why Is Dental Health So Important for Pets?
Your pet’s dental health affects a lot more than just his teeth and gums. When your cat or dog has a healthy mouth, they’re more likely to be healthier overall. Similar to humans, how you care for your pet’s teeth can play a large role in his likelihood of developing other health issues.
If your pet doesn’t receive proper dental care, it can lead to severe issues, like dental disease, one of the most common health problems of dogs and cats. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, over 80% of dogs and 70% of cats start showing signs of the disease by the age of three.
Your pet’s teeth don’t go bad overnight. It’s a gradual process that occurs when proper oral hygiene is neglected. First, plaque builds up on your pet’s teeth; then it turns to tartar and finally starts to form small pockets where your pet’s teeth meet his gums. These pockets allow more bacteria and food to gather around your furry friend’s teeth, eventually leading to periodontal disease. If left untreated, this can eventually allow bacteria to enter your pet’s bloodstream, leading to serious health consequences like lung, heart, and kidney disease.
Domesticated dogs and cats require special dental care. In the wild, animals’ prey serves as a natural dental floss and toothbrush, but your pet’s food doesn’t provide the same cleaning qualities. Therefore, it’s up to you to ensure your pet receives the appropriate care for his teeth and gums.
What Are Some Signs of Poor Dental Health in Pets?
While it might be easy to dismiss your pal’s bad breath as just a “pet thing,” don’t be so sure. Your pet’s less than pleasant breath can actually be a sign of dental disease. If anything, it is certainly a reminder to give your pal’s chompers some extra attention.
Here are a few symptoms of dental disease to be on the lookout for so you can take the necessary steps to help your pet:
- Bad breath
- Depression or inactivity
- Swollen or red gums
- Bleeding gums
- Excessive drooling, salivating
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Dropping food while eating
- Nose or eye discharge
- Swelling of the face
- Loose teeth (or losing teeth)
- Pawing at face
What Are Some Risks of Poor Dental Hygiene?
There are several risks associated with poor oral hygiene, ranging from mild to severe. With many, the sooner you treat the issue, the more likely your pet will avoid any serious complications. However, even small problems can cause significant conditions to form if you don’t address them promptly.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the potential dental health problems your pet could face as a result of improper (or no) dental care:
- Caries -- This is when the tooth enamel experiences decalcification, which leads to cavities.
- Gingivitis -- This common inflammation of the gums is actually an early stage of periodontal disease.
- Gingivostomatitis -- This is a condition specific to cats, in which the oral tissue swells.
- Feline Odontoclastic Resorption Lesions -- A really long way to say -- lesions that destroy healthy tissue and damage your cat’s teeth.
- Various oral cancers
- Periodontal Disease
- Pyorrhea -- An inflammation of the gums and tooth sockets; it can cause pus to form around the tooth and lead to tooth loss.
In addition to these dental health issues, your pet can also end up with general health conditions due to poor dental hygiene that goes untreated. Some of these issues include:
- Heart Disease
- Blood and bone infections
- High blood pressure
- Kidney problems
- Lung disease
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Heart valve infections
- Liver abscesses
- Weight loss
What Is the Best Way to Take Care of Your Pet’s Teeth and Gums?
The best way to take care of your pet’s oral health and avoid dental disease is through prevention, which means regular oral exams and dental cleanings. The American Animal Hospital Association Dental Care Guidelines stress how essential proper, routine oral care is for all dogs and cats, starting at age one for cats and small dogs and age two for large-breed dogs.
The absolute best way to care for your pet’s teeth is through daily brushing. After all, imagine how your teeth would be if you didn’t brush them every day! You can also feed your pet a dry-food diet using foods and chews that have been awarded the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of product approval. Although using these products is no guarantee against dental problems, you can ensure you’re using some of the most effective products available to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
Products That Can Help You with Pet Dental Care
Nothing is a substitute for regular brushing and professional checkups and cleanings, but there are a few things you can use at home to help keep your pet's teeth healthy.
If your pup isn’t always a fan of having his teeth brushed, incorporate some tasty dental treats into his daily regimen.
These chews are sure to be a hit with your pooch, and they’re good for him too. These chews help control tartar and even aid bone and joint health.
What you put in your pup's food bowl plays a large role in his dental health. Consider giving your pup a dog food that helps support his dental health.
When you hear that you should brush your cat’s teeth, you probably roll your eyes and think, “yeah, right.” You wouldn’t be alone; brushing a cat’s teeth isn’t exactly an easy thing to do. So, do as much as you can and feed your cat a dental-approved diet.
Place this gel on your pet’s teeth in the evening after her final meal and leave it on overnight to help prevent plaque and tartar build-up. The company also features a line of additives that you can pour into your pet's water dish or mix in with her food.
When in doubt, go for the treats! These tasty bites help control plaque and tartar, clean your cat’s teeth, and help freshen her breath (always a perk)!
When you have pets, they become part of the family, and you want what’s best for them. This means taking care of them from A to Z, and dental care is a big part of your faithful friend’s overall health. For more tips and tricks on how to care for your pets, check out the rest of our blog. At Neater Pets, we strive to provide you with all of the information you need to do what’s best for your dogs and cats.