Our canine companions rely on us for every aspect of their well-being, including their dental hygiene. While most pet owners are diligent about taking their dogs to the vet, many overlook the importance of maintaining their furry friend’s teeth. Understandably, dogs cannot wield a toothbrush themselves, so it’s up to you to find creative methods to preserve your dog’s dental health. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the reasons behind poor dental hygiene in both dogs and cats, emphasizing its significance for their overall well-being, and suggest effective strategies to address it. Additionally, we’ll share our top recommendation for home dental care for your beloved pet.
What is Plaque?
Plaque is a bacterial biofilm that accumulates on teeth. Just like in humans, this same plaque affects your pet’s oral health. After your pet eats, plaque forms on their teeth, and within a short time frame of about 36 hours, it can solidify into tartar. It’s crucial to have a strategy to combat plaque buildup in your pet’s mouth.
What is Tartar?
Tartar, characterized by its hardened state resulting from the combination of plaque and saliva, not only poses a threat to your dog or cat’s dental health but can also lead to gum inflammation and other oral issues if left untreated. Regular dental care is essential to prevent tartar buildup and maintain your pet’s oral hygiene.
Does your pet have bad breath?
The first indication that something might be wrong with your pet’s dental hygiene is the presence of bad breath. Many owners may not even realize that something is amiss with their pet until they receive an unpleasant lick on the face. When your pet is suffering from cavities or dental diseases, their breath smells due to the buildup of bacteria. Smaller pets, such as cats and smaller dog breeds, tend to encounter more dental issues than larger pets because their mouths are prone to tartar and plaque buildup.
What causes your pet’s bad breath?
As mentioned earlier, the primary cause of bad breath is usually bacterial buildup or another dental disease. However, your pet could be experiencing issues with their digestive system, internal organs, or respiratory system. The best way to determine the cause of your pet’s bad breath is to schedule an appointment with the vet. Through a physical examination, your vet can identify the underlying cause of your pet’s foul breath.
Common Dental Diseases in Pet
Dental issues rank among the most prevalent conditions veterinarians encounter. Many dogs and cats face dental challenges as they age, and certain breeds may require specialized treatment from the outset. Plaque forms on your pet’s teeth immediately after they eat, chew on treats, or bones. These bacteria combine with saliva to create tartar, a hard, stone-like substance. Tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease when it wedges into the gums. Without a dental hygiene regimen in place, plaque and tartar accumulation can spiral out of control.
Periodontal disease is the most common health issue in dogs and cats. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80-85% of all pets experience periodontal disease, with 100% affected to some degree by the age of four. Tartar buildup creates pockets of bacteria beneath the gumline, leading to abscesses and further bacterial growth. The major concern with periodontal disease is the potential for harmful bacteria to enter the bloodstream, affecting vital organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, as well as the pet’s overall demeanor. Fortunately, periodontal disease is preventable with proactive dental care.
Other Common Dental Diseases:
- Gingivitis: Inflamed gums due to excess plaque, characterized by symptoms such as bad breath, bleeding, and swelling. Regular teeth cleaning can reverse gingivitis.
- Halitosis: Bad breath often indicates a dental issue. Regular teeth cleaning can freshen your pet’s breath.
- Swollen Gums: Resulting from food and tartar accumulation between teeth and under gums. Regular teeth brushing and annual vet cleanings can alleviate swollen gums.
- Proliferating Gum Disease: Gums overgrow teeth, requiring antibiotic treatment, common in bull terriers and boxers.
- Mouth Tumors: Manifest as lumps in the gums, requiring professional removal if malignant.
- Salivary Cysts: Large fluid-filled sacs beneath the tongue or around the jaw corners, necessitating drainage and removal of the damaged salivary gland by a vet.
- Canine Distemper Teeth: Eroded and decayed teeth in dogs that suffered distemper as puppies, necessitating extraction by a vet.
Understanding and addressing these common dental diseases can significantly enhance the overall health and well-being of your beloved pets.
Why Your Pet’s Dental Health is Important
Your pet’s dental hygiene is crucial as neglecting it can lead to severe diseases. Compromised dental health allows bacteria to enter their bloodstream through their gums, potentially causing systemic issues. Ignoring your pet’s dental health can lead to more significant problems, affecting their overall well-being and your finances. By paying attention to your pet’s teeth today, you can prevent future pain and discomfort for both you and your furry companion.
Which Dental Care Methods Work for Your Pet?
When you visit the vet for the first time, they should offer advice on dental care options for your pet. However, some methods may cause too much anxiety for your pet. Fortunately, there are various approaches you can consider:
Introducing tooth brushing to your pet at an early age makes the process easier. While some adult pets may resist, brushing their teeth after each meal or 1-2 times a week is generally recommended for maintaining dental hygiene.
- Water or Food Additives
These additives can help reduce plaque and tartar buildup in your pet’s mouth.
- Cleaning Treats
Dental treats designed to help clean your pet’s teeth while they chew can be effective.
- Professional Dental Care
Regular dental cleanings performed by a veterinarian are essential for maintaining optimal dental health in pets.
Taking proactive steps to care for your pet’s dental health can prevent costly and painful dental issues in the future.
Selecting a Brush
Choosing the right toothbrush for your pet depends on their mouth size and temperament. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Size: Ensure the toothbrush is not too large for your pet’s mouth, as it should comfortably fit inside.
Handle: Opt for toothbrushes with smaller handles, as they are easier to maneuver and control during brushing sessions.
Finger Brushes: While finger brushes can be suitable for some pets, smaller dogs may prefer regular toothbrushes, as your hand size may be too large for their mouths.
By selecting the appropriate toothbrush for your pet, you can make dental care more comfortable and effective, promoting better oral health in the long run.
Powder and Water Additives
If brushing isn’t feasible for your pet, powder and water additives can be alternative options to promote dental hygiene.
Powder Additives: These are sprinkled onto your pet’s food daily. They work to reduce plaque buildup in your pet’s mouth, contributing to better dental health over time.
Water Additives: Liquid formulations added to your pet’s water bowl daily can help freshen their breath and reduce bacteria in their mouth and bowl. This option is particularly useful for pets resistant to brushing and can complement brushing efforts.
Incorporating powder and water additives into your pet’s routine can enhance their dental care regimen, especially for pets who may struggle with traditional brushing methods.
While many people opt for dental chews as a convenient option, they are actually the least effective and one we advise against. The most reliable way to ensure your dog maintains good dental health is through daily brushing. Dental chews do not last long enough to provide thorough cleaning, and some contain unnatural ingredients that may upset your dog’s stomach. Moreover, the biggest concern with chews is the risk of dogs breaking off large pieces and swallowing them, posing a choking hazard and failing to clean their teeth effectively. We recommend using dental chews only under supervision and as a last resort.
Sometimes, despite regular brushing, your pet may require professional dental cleaning at the vet. During this procedure, the animal is placed under anesthesia to ensure a thorough cleaning process. While this procedure can be costly, it is essential if there are signs of significant dental disease or the need for tooth extractions. While groomers may offer teeth brushing services, occasional brushing or cleaning every six weeks is insufficient to maintain good dental health. Daily attention to dental hygiene is necessary to ensure your pet’s optimal health and well-being.
Dental Care Products
A plethora of dental products for dogs flood the market today, offering various options to cater to different needs. Not every product will suit every dog, nor will it be equally effective in every situation. It’s perfectly acceptable to select a product and experiment with it on your dog. If your dog doesn’t respond well to it, be open to adjusting and trying alternative methods instead. Finding the right dental care product for your dog may require some trial and error, but persistence in finding the ideal solution will benefit your pet’s oral health in the long run.
PetFast Dental Strips
Incorporating additional methods for dental care in between brushing sessions can significantly enhance your pet’s oral health. PetFast Dental Strips offer a convenient, hands-off approach to dental care, providing continuous bacteria control throughout the day. Simply place a single strip into your pet’s mouth, in which the thin strip instantly dissolves in the mouth, providing rapid oral freshness, supports the prevention of periodontal disease, provides protection from plaque and tartar build up, as well as promotes digestion.
When selecting a dental solution, opt for products containing natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which effectively combat bad breath by reducing bacterial growth while soothing any irritations of the gum. The composition of PetFast Dental Strips for Oral Health contains key natural ingredients that offer a wide variety of benefits for oral hygiene:
Sage possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can effectively combat oral bacteria and reduce inflammation in the gums. It also aids in freshening breath by eliminating odor-causing bacteria in the mouth. In terms of oral health, sage can be utilized to treat or prevent gingivitis and remove tartar buildup.
Moreover, sage serves as a potent natural remedy for infections or ulcers occurring in the mouth, skin, or digestive tract. Its antimicrobial effects are primarily attributed to thujone, a volatile oil that demonstrates efficacy against a range of bacteria including Escherichia coli, Shigella sonnei, Salmonella species, Klebsiella ozanae, Bacillus subtillis, as well as various fungi such as Candida albicans, C. krusei, C. pseudotropicalis, Torulopsis glabrata, and Cryptococcus neoformans.
Spirulina, a type of blue-green microalgae, stands out as a remarkable functional food due to its exceptional nutritional content and its ability to combat various diseases. Rich in nutrients such as chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and a range of bioactive compounds like carotenoids, chlorophyll, and xanthophylls, as well as antioxidants, it offers comprehensive support for oral and digestive health. Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-fungal properties contribute to reducing plaque formation on teeth and fight periodontal diseases.
Clinical studies have demonstrated that using Spirulina leads to a significant decrease in dental plaque and gingivitis, and it also shows promise in treating periodontitis.
Previous research has highlighted the potential advantages of incorporating Spirulina into regular diets for preventing numerous pathological disorders linked to oxidative stress and inflammation. Periodontitis, an inflammatory condition triggered by bacterial biofilms gathering in the gingival margin, involves a cascade of inflammatory reactions in periodontal tissues initiated by indigenous gram-negative periodontal bacteria.
In 1996, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized Spirulina as a highly promising food for the future due to its abundant protein and antioxidant content. The FDA has similarly acknowledged its exceptional nutritional profile, designating it as an ideal food for humanity and labeling it a “superfood” due to its high levels of beta-carotene, vitamin B12, iron, trace elements, and the rare essential gamma-linolenic acid.
Calendula Flower Extract
Calendula flower extract contains antioxidants, flavonoids and terpenoids. Has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties and can soothe irritated gums. It is used for gingivitis and prevent gastric ulcers and promotes healing of minor oral wounds and infections.
Ginger Root Extract
Ginger root extract has antimicrobial properties that can help fight oral bacteria. It also reduces inflammation in the gums and alleviate discomfort associated with oral infections and promotes digestion.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is ideal for breaking down plaque and tartar on teeth and gums, thus supporting oral hygiene. It has antibacterial properties that can help kill harmful bacteria in the mouth. Moreover, it regulates digestion and supports oral flora.
Dietary Support for Dental Health
A balanced diet plays a significant role in maintaining optimal dental health for your pet. Consider incorporating air-dried food or ground raw diets, which can help reduce tartar buildup on their teeth. Additionally, offering crunchy foods like carrots and apples can aid in naturally cleaning your pet’s teeth as they chew. Investing in your pet’s dental health now can lead to long-term savings, as processed foods are a leading cause of plaque issues. With these insights into your pet’s dental well-being, consider crafting a personalized hygiene plan.
Even if you haven’t prioritized your pet’s dental health before, it’s never too late to start. Many dental diseases can be reversed through regular tooth brushing. However, if you feel uncomfortable cleaning your pet’s teeth, consider scheduling a professional cleaning with your veterinarian. Your pet deserves to enjoy their meals without the burden of dental issues. Take charge of your pet’s dental health today; you’ll be glad you did!