Do you know the warning signs of dental problems? Pets can be stubborn when you try to check, but it’s worth the effort. Here’s some advice to make the job easier:
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to confess that I’m probably not the best source on maintaining your pet’s dental health at home.
I have tried—unsuccessfully, I might add—countless times to brush my dog Blue’s teeth, but he wiggles and squirms and makes it impossible for me to even get a toothbrush into his mouth. I’ve tried taking him to the pet store groomers, but he makes a beeline for the exit before we step two feet into the store. I had to resort to taking him to the vet to have his teeth deep cleaned under anesthesia.
But I’m nothing if not resourceful, and I found a lot of great information about this important topic online. Here are some tips from the ASPCA to help you maintain your pet’s pearly whites and overall dental health:
Breath test: OK, I know this sounds gross. But sniffing your pet’s breath can tip you off to any dental issues. Cat and dog breath doesn’t exactly smell good, but if their breath has an abnormally strong odor they may have digestive problems or gingivitis, which needs to be treated by a vet. If bad breath is accompanied by a loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking or urinating, consult with your vet immediately.
Lip service: Once a week, with your dog or cat facing you, gently lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should show no signs of swelling. His teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.
Tooth-brushing kits: Local pet stores sell toothbrushes and toothpaste that are designed specifically for dogs and cats. A piece of soft gauze wrapped around your finger or cotton swabs will work as well. Never use toothpaste designed for people on your pets, and don’t use fluoride with dogs and cats younger than 6 months. When in doubt consult with your vet to see what type of toothpaste they recommend.
A few things to look out for: Maintaining your pet’s dental health requires more than an occasional brushing. It’s important that you also keep an eye out for any signs of oral disease that need to be checked by your vet. Here are a few things to watch for:
- Bad breath
- Excessive drooling
- Tumors in the gums; ulcers on gums or tongue; cysts under the tongue
- Loose teeth
- Dark red line along the gums or red, swollen gums
- Difficulty chewing food
- Excessive pawing at the mouth area
See more tips from the ASCPA here.
Do you brush your pet’s teeth at home? If so, I want to hear from you! What tips can you offer your fellow pet parents?