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The need to care for one’s teeth is common knowledge that is taught to most people at a very early age. Brushing twice daily is a habit that is critical for good dental health and longevity. Unfortunately, people do not typically think of their pets’ daily dental needs in the same way. Often people take the teeth of their animals for granted, as information on pet dental care is still relatively new to most pet owners. Pets can experience many of the dental problems that humans do, including, but not limited to gum disease, cavities, tooth abscesses, and even tooth loss. An obvious sign that one’s pet has developed gum disease resulting from plaque build-up is the presence of foul breath. Bad smelling breath may also be indicative of bacterial build-up that results from a failure to remove plaque from a pet’s teeth. Bacteria should be taken seriously, as it can cause severe problems to the animal’s vital organs, such as the brain, heart, and liver, if it should spread into the bloodstream. For these reasons, it is important that pet owners take the dental health of their dog or cat seriously, and before any major dental or gum problems should arise.
Pet owners should get into the habit of checking their pets’ gums routinely and, more importantly, brushing their teeth daily. For people who may find the idea of daily brushing to be daunting, there’s no need to worry or skip brushing altogether. While daily brushing of one’s cat or dog’s teeth is preferred, it is far more acceptable to brush several times a week than not at all. The process of actually brushing a pet’s teeth can be another area of difficulty for some. Dogs may see it as something to play with or attempt to chew, while cats may resist the idea of brushing their teeth altogether. To overcome this obstacle, pet owners will want to acquaint their pets with the motions of tooth brushing as early as possible. A good way to go about this is for the pet owner to let the animal become comfortable with the sensation of having them manipulate their mouths. This can be done using one’s finger to rub the animal’s teeth gently. To make this more acceptable to the pet, particularly if it is resistant and will not allow the placement of a finger in its mouth, is to dip one’s fingers into something that is tasty to the animal, such as beef or chicken bouillon.
The animal should be given sufficient time to adjust to this intrusion and the pet owner should stay calm and relaxed. Expressing anger or frustration will only make the experience a negative one, and the animal will subsequently carry those negative feelings over to the actual brushing of its teeth. In addition to the feel of its owner placing something into its mouth and onto its teeth, one’s pet will need to adjust to the feel of its owner lifting its muzzle. Practice lifting the animal’s muzzle for brief periods of time utilizing the reward system after by giving it a treat, praise, or playtime. As a result one’s pet will view all of these actions positively when it comes time to actually brush its teeth. In some instances, particularly with dogs, the animal may even anticipate teeth brushing time.
Once the pet has been sufficiently prepared, it’s time to purchase a toothbrush and toothpaste to actually do the job. There are several options when it comes to choosing a toothbrush. Pet stores will offer toothbrushes that are specifically for dogs or cats. Another option is to use a brush that is placed on the tip of the finger, or to skip buying a brush and use a strip of gauze wrapped around the finger instead. When choosing toothpaste, once again seek out a pet store or the pet section of one’s favorite store. Human toothpaste is not recommended for animal use as it may upset their stomach and make them ill when ingested; however, there are a selection of choices and often flavors to choose from, such as fish flavored toothpastes for cats.
Once all of the necessary tools are gathered it will be time to start brushing the animal’s teeth. Start slowly as the animal becomes familiar with the taste and the texture of the brush. For cats and certain overly excited dogs, it may be necessary to start with one section of the mouth at a time. For example, try starting with the upper canine teeth which will be easier to reach. As with training, pets should always be praised after the teeth have successfully been brushed. For pets that are simply resistant to allowing their owners to brush their teeth, there are other option such as chew toys that are designed to also clean the teeth, and certain types of hard kibble.
Dental Care for Dogs
- Ten Steps to Dog’s Dental Health
- Dental Care for Dogs: Tips and Tricks
- Dental Hygiene for Dogs
- Need to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth? A Vet Shows You How (Video)
- Tip of the Day – How to Check Your Dog’s Teeth (Video)
- Eleven Steps to Doggy Dental Hygiene
Cat Dental Care
- Ten Steps to Cats Dental Health
- Dental Surgery for Cats
- Chew on This
- Your Cat Magazine: How to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth
- Modern Cat Magazine: Why Care for Your Cat’s Teeth?
- Feline Dental Health
- Keeping Your Cat’s Teeth – What You Need to Know (PDF)