According to the experts, just over 80% of American adults brush their teeth at least once per day. In contrast, 80% of all pets have some form of severe gum disease by the time they reach three years of age. Luckily, February is National Pet Dental Health Month, which makes this the perfect excuse to start cleaning your pet’s teeth every day.
Sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), this annual focus on pet dental health helps educate pet owners about the dangers of poor dental hygiene. Beyond bad breath, bacterial infections caused by a lack of brushing can cause tooth loss and damage to internal organs. Either can be painful or even fatal for your dog or cat.
Talk to Your Veterinarian
At every visit, your vet will do a dental evaluation. They will know the best course of action for your pet, whether you have a rambunctious puppy or an opinionated, old cat. They will look for Canine Gingivitis (an inflammation of the gums due to a buildup of plaque along the gum line), as well as Canine Periodontal Disease (an infection of the tissue around the gums). If needed, they will suggest a professional cleaning to start you off on the right foot. They might also suggest annual cleanings to keep your pet healthy and happy.
Brush Every Day
Once your pet has had a professional cleaning, it’s your turn to start brushing every day with a pet-specific toothbrush and pet toothpaste. Don’t just jump in and stick the brush in their mouth. Work up to it.
Step 1: Get a soft, pet toothbrush or finger brush. You’ll find a wide assortment at Coastal. Be sure to pick up a tube of pet toothpaste too. Your pet will love flavors like beef, mint, and chicken.
Coastal tip: Never use people toothpaste on your pet. The foaming agent can cause stomach issues.
Step 2: Gradually introduce your pet to the pet toothbrush and toothpaste. Leave it out for a few days. Let them sniff and lick it. You might even give them treats when they interact with the toothbrush.
Step 3: Put some of the pet toothpaste onto the toothbrush and let them lick it off. Give plenty of praise. Do this every day for about a week.
Step 4: Rub a bit of the pet toothpaste on their gums, lips, or teeth, and reward them with their favorite treats. It’s best to do this every day for a full week.
Step 5: Brush their teeth. Use gentle, sweeping motions to get along the gums. They won’t love it the first time, but because you made it a treat, they will likely go along with it. Just be sure to stick with quick brushes. Don’t take too long. You don’t want them to get bored or begin to dislike the routine.
Tips for Better Brushing
- To get access to their teeth, pull the lips back by stroking their face.
- Run the toothbrush along the gums at a 45-dgree angle.
- Focus on the outside of your pet’s teeth. The inside will have less plaque.
- Ensure you clean the back molars. That is where most plaque builds up.
- Try to brush their teeth at the same time every day.
Dental Treats and Toys Work Too
Nothing works as well as daily brushing, but if you cannot get to it every day, or if you feel your pet needs some extra dental care, dental treats and toys work great. Dental toys include ropes and grooved toys that sweep away plaque as the chew. Rawhides as well as specially formulated, edible treats are also good, daily options.
Coastal Loves Pets
The next time you come to Coastal, bring your pet with you. And be sure to take them to the pet section. There you’ll find Greenies dental chews for dogs in assorted sizes, including options that help with joint care. And for that special cat in your life, we have Science Diet® Feline Adult Oral Care. You’ll also find a full line of food, toys, treats, collars, leashes, beds, and other oral care items at your Northwest Owned and operated Coastal.