To Brush or Not To Brush
It’s that time of year again at your veterinarian’s office where the smell of your pet’s breath is the number one topic. Does your pet have stinky breath? Are his teeth more yellow brown than pearly white? If so he may be a part of the 80% of pets that show signs of dental disease by the age of three. Dental care in pets is important to their overall health.
The most important step you can take to prevent dental disease in your pet is the same step you take for your own oral hygiene- brushing! Just like in us, the physical action of brushing removes bacteria trapping plaque. If plaque is not removed, it will mineralize becoming tartar and over time builds into calculus. This is where that horrible breath starts. Brushing does take some getting used to, but if pets (including cats!) are started young, and rewards and positive reinforcement is used, many pets adapt well to letting owners brush regularly. Brushing should be done a minimum of 3-5 times a week to be effective. There are many resources online to teach owners how to brush their cat or dog’s teeth as well. If your pet does not allow your to brush regularly or it is not feasible for other reasons, discuss other options with your veterinarian such as a dental diet. Dental diets work by using large kibble with an airy fiber matrix, that when chewed, removes plaque off the teeth.
It is important to know the warning signs of dental disease in pets. Dental disease can be painful so know what to look for and when to schedule a check up with your regular veterinarian. Signs of oral infection and discomfort include inflammation and bleeding from the gums, broken teeth, severe bad breath (not just morning breath, but that smell like something is rotten!) and excessive drooling. These are all reasons to schedule an exam with your veterinarian immediately. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that an oral health exam be a part of every annual or biannual wellness exam to keep an eye out for signs of dental disease and to assess when an anesthetic dental cleaning may be warranted.