Everyone in my fur family had their annual vet check-up recently. It turns out that dental health was something we needed to address for our dog. Maybe it’s because she eats a fair amount of table scraps. Maybe it’s because the salivary glands over her molars are on overdrive, pumping out the minerals that help plaque (hardened tartar) form. Maybe it’s because I just can’t get her to gnaw on a bone.
But she needed a dental cleaning and I want to pass along everything I learned from the process. Of course, I get why our pet’s dental health is as important as ours. I go in for my routine oral hygiene appointments every six months and I wouldn’t think of going to bed without brushing and flossing. It’s just so hard to get my pets on a tooth brushing schedule. And the cats….well, frankly, they just want no part of it. We added dental treats to their daily diet a long time ago.
I learned that by the time a dog or cat is 4 years old, 85 percent will have some oral disease. That’s huge. And you can have their teeth cleaned but if you don’t take preventive actions, the plaque will build back up within weeks.
Of course the cleaning of the tooth surface and under the gums is critical but the standard of practice now includes X-rays. Some say that without X-rays, the procedure is merely cosmetic. Years ago I broke a molar eating a hamburger. Just imagine how easy it is for a dog to break a tooth with the things they eat. Even my six year old dog who has no interest in bones had two enamel fractures. Fortunately, the X-ray revealed no damage to the teeth.
Another feature of the oral cleaning was a sealant painted right on the tooth enamel to prevent plaque build-up. It would be nice if this product lasted forever but you do have to re-apply it weekly if that’s the method you choose to take control of your pet’s oral health.
What are some of the other ways to prevent the build-up of dangerous plaque?
Brushing your pet’s teeth DAILY is the most effective. Dog Fancy Magazine reports that maybe 2 percent of people brush their dog’s teeth. Probably fewer than that will brush their cat’s teeth. So, if brushing is out, what are you to do?
The Veterinary Oral Health Council www.vohc.org has a great website. They exist to recognize products that retard the build up of plaque on our pet’s teeth by giving their seal of approval to dental products. If you want to supplement your pet’s diet with treats that will help their oral hygiene, just look for the VOHC seal.
There are many options to extend the amount of time before your dog or cat has to have a dental procedure.
- Oral Gels and Sealants – The product my veterinarian used is OraVet and it can be re-applied weekly with an applicator or q-tip. It takes about 1 minute to apply.
- Diets – Hill’s, Royal Canin, Iames, and Purina all make dog and cat kibble with textures and shapes that produce a gentle abrasive effect on the teeth to reduce the accumulation of plaque. There’s also an agent added that binds the salivary calcium so it can’t form plaque. If you choose this route, you would be changing your pet’s daily diet.
- Drinking water additives – as simple as adding a measured portion to your pet’s daily water dish — 2 teaspoons to a quart.
- Anti-plaque oral sprays – improve breath while preventing plaque from forming.
- Treats – Many treats and chews are designed for cleaning the teeth. One of my favorites for my cats is Greenies but I haven’t been giving them enough. For best results, a 12 pound cat can get 21 treats a day. You don’t want to overfeed your pet, so think of this as supplementing their diet.
- Chews for dogs – You can choose from vegetable based brands or rawhide chews treated with chlorhexidine. Depending on the size of your dog, costs will range from $10-25/month to give one chew a day.
- If your dog is game, raw broccoli and carrots work wonders.
For my dog, I’ve chosen to brush (30 days to a new habit) and supplement with chews. My cats just hit the jackpot with their Greenies – they don’t know I’m no longer rationing five Greenies per cat but they’re not asking any questions. In fact, considering that this new dental regime is treat based, everyone is pretty happy.
What are you using to keep your pet’s teeth clean? Leave a comment and let others know what works for you.
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