Pet dental hygiene tips

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (HEARTLAND WEEKEND) - Dental hygiene, in general, has taken a hit since the pandemic, and let’s not forget about our pets! Before 2020, studies revealed that dental disease impacts nearly 80% of dogs and almost 90% of cats.

Dr. Liz Stelow, Veterinary Behavior Specialist at the University of California, Davis, says preventative dental care in cats and dogs resembles human preventive dental care.

“There should be checkups done regularly by a veterinarian, and depending on the health of the teeth, there can be interventional measures, so things that can be done at home can be passive, meaning you can use foods or treats or supplements that can take care either mechanically or enzymatically of some dental cleaning or they can be active, meaning toothbrushing.”

There are special toothbrushes, dental wipes, and toothpaste made specifically for dogs and cats-never use human toothpaste on an animal.

Getting your pet accustomed to having its teeth and mouth touched can take time, but Dr. Stelow recommends using your fingers and hands around your cat’s or dog’s face, muzzle, and inside the mouth at first, and always using treats to recognize good behavior. You can eventually add toothpaste to your finger, then introduce a brush once the animal is comfortable.

When it comes to veterinary oral care for dogs, Stelow endorses anesthesia.

“Like in human oral health, a lot of the business end of the tooth is below the gum line, and that’s where the plaque starts. And below the gum, dental cleaning is not possible in a dog that’s not anesthetized. So, when it’s time for ‘Fluffy’ to have his teeth cleaned, it’s really important to go to a veterinarian. And when they say anesthesia, to say, ‘Yes, I understand,’ so that the teeth can be fully clean, fully examined, and that oral health can be fully assessed.”

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