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The American Dental Association recommends that we brush our
teeth twice a day, floss daily, and visit our dentist regularly to
have teeth cleanings and oral exams. Keeping our teeth clean is
vital to our oral health and well being, why should our pets be any
When was the last time you brushed your pet's teeth or had them
professionally cleaned? For many people the answer could be never.
This seemingly slight overlook of your pet's dental care could be
causing serious problems in your pooch's mouth.
According to the Veterinary Oral Health Council website,
periodontal disease (gum disease) is the most common disease
occurring in pets and dogs. Gum disease is an infection resulting
from the build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces of the
teeth around the gums. The bacteria in dental plaque irritate the
gum tissue if allowed to accumulate, which can often lead to
infection in the bone surrounding the teeth.
After plaque has formed, hard dental tartar, which consists of
calcium salts from saliva that has been deposited on plaque, begins
to grow. If the surface of the tooth does not stay clean, tartar
begins to form within a few days. The un-brushed tooth provides a
surface that boosts further plaque accumulation. If allowed to
accumulate, tartar is difficult to remove without dental
For our pets, gum disease means bad breath, painful irritated
gums that can lead to bleeding and loss of appetite, and the loss
of teeth if the roots have been affected. There is also the
possibility that the bacteria surrounding the root of the tooth
gains access to the bloodstream, which can lead to microscopic
damage of the heart, liver, and kidney. As the severity of the gum
disease increases, so does the damage.
The best way to ward off periodontal disease in your pet is
prevention. Keeping your pets teeth clean can help prevent oral
"Ideally, you should brush your pet's teeth daily," states Dr.
Johnathon Dodd, a clinical associate professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Make
sure you are using special toothpaste that is made for pets and is
safe for them to swallow. They cannot spit or rinse like we do,
therefore, our pets need specific kinds of toothpaste that is not
harmful if ingested."
Your veterinarian and local pet retail stores should carry
toothbrushes and toothpaste for your pets. Different flavors of
toothpastes are available for dog and cats.
In addition to brushing your pet's teeth daily, it is also
important for pets to have their teeth cleaned and examined by a
"Your pet needs to get their teeth cleaned yearly," notes Dodd.
"Most veterinary clinics should offer dental cleaning services, but
if they do not they can refer you to someone who does."
To help ward off gum diseases and keep bad breath at bay, there
are products you can feed your pet that help improve and promote
"There are certain dog treats that help promote good dental
health," explains Dodd. "The right kind of treat should crumble, be
easily crushed, and contain chlorhexadine or a hydrogen
peroxide-type additive that can help with the bacteria count in the
animal's mouth. Balancing this bacteria count can help prevent and
get rid of bad breath."
A helpful guide to go by when considering your pets' oral health
is the Veterinary Oral Health Council website. They have compiled a
list of products that are intended to help reduce the buildup of
plaque and tartar on the teeth of animals and created the VOHC seal
of approval. Pet products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health
Council can be recognized by the VOHC seal on the packaging. To see
the full list of VOHC approved products visit www.vohc.org.
Brushing your pet's teeth, taking them for a yearly visit to the
dentist, and giving them VOHC approved products are all ways that
you can help make sure your pet has a clean and healthy mouth.
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.
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