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Importance of Oral Care
According to the American Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. This can lead to even more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease. Ensuring your pet receives proper dental care from an early age is critical.
In addition to oral examinations and dental cleanings performed by your veterinarian, there are several things you can do to ensure the mouth of your dog or cat stays healthy.
Brushing at Home
Brushing your pet's teeth daily helps prevent a multitude of oral and other health problems. It is best to introduce dental home care early with your new puppy or kitten. During your first veterinary visit, request a demonstration of how to properly and effectively brush your pet's teeth.
Below are step-by-step instructions on how to brush your pet's teeth at home.
1. Start with a healthy, comfortable mouth by having your veterinarian perform a dental cleaning. Existing problems may cause pain leading to an uncooperative dog or cat.
2. Start slowly by letting your pet become comfortable with you working inside their mouth with your finger. Gently rub along the gumline. Start at the front and move toward the back upper and then lower teeth and gums.
3. Pull his lip up to rub the outside of the teeth and gums.
4. Pull his head back gently to encourage him to open his mouth so you can clean the inside of his teeth.
5. Repeat on the opposite side of the mouth.
6. After your dog or cat becomes comfortable with your finger, place gauze over your finger and rub their teeth in a circular motion.
7. When your pet can handle the gauze, introduce a toothbrush during the next brushing session. It is important to make this switch because a bristled toothbrush cleans below the gumline where gauze or pads cannot reach.
8. Apply the bristles at a 45 degree angle to the surface of the tooth. Using small, circular motions, brush around the outside of the teeth ensuring the bristles get under the gumline. Brushing the sides of the teeth is not as important, as dogs and cats typically do not have tartar build-up between teeth like humans do.
9. Gradually add toothpaste designed for dogs or cats. Do not use people toothpaste or baking soda as both can upset your pet's stomach.
10. Place your hand over your pet's muzzle gently squeezing from the top.
11. Help keep your pet calm by praising your pet, speaking reassuringly and keeping the brushing sessions short. Remember, you will not always have a perfect teeth brushing session, but it's important to be consistent and keep trying.
Other Considerations for a Healthy Mouth
Hard food and teeth cleaning biscuits can help keep your pet's mouth clean in between brushings.
You should also be sure to regularly examine your pet's mouth for signs of periodontal disease. Brownish teeth, consistently bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums and pus between the teeth and gums are all warning signs. If your dog or cat has these symptoms, consult your veterinarian.