1. Take a whiff.
Smell your pet’s breath. It won’t smell like a field of flowers, but just make sure it’s not especially offensive. If bad breath is accompanied by loss of appetite, vomiting or excessive drinking/urinating, set up an appointment if your vet.
2. Pucker up.
Well, not really, but it is important to check your pet’s gums once a week. To do this have your pet face you and lift his/her lips. The gums should be pink, not white or red, and should also show no signs of swelling.
Chew toys are not only great entertainment for your pet and fulfilling their natural desire to hunt/chomp; they also make their teeth strong. Most toys will help massage gums and help keep teeth clean by scraping away some soft tartar. For dogs, toxin-free rawhides, nylon and rubber chew toys are great choices. Cats will enjoy any feline chew toy or anything resembling a string (which will also help floss your cat’s teeth).
What you feed your pets affects their teeth as well. Dry food, for both dogs and cats, can slow down the formation of plaque and tartar. Treats specific to teeth cleaning are also available.
4. Brush those pearly whites.
You brush your teeth every day; you should do the same for your dog or cat. Get in a habit of brushing their teeth after you brush your own. It only takes 60 seconds out of your day. At first, it may be a bit crazy, but the more you do it, the more your pet will get used to it.
When starting out with a brushing routine, follow these steps:
Get your pet used to having your fingers in his/her mouth. Massage their lips in a circular motion for 30-60 seconds once or twice a day. Continue this for a few weeks, then move on to the teeth and gums.
Once they seem comfortable with this, put a little bit of dog or cat specific toothpaste on your finger for them to lick off. NEVER use human toothpaste or basking soda. These can make your pet sick.
You’ll need a pet designed toothbrush. These are much smaller and softer than human toothbrushes. You may want to start with a piece of clean gauze or a finger brush. Angle your finger or the brush at a 45-degree angle and rub gently in a circular motion. Take note that the side of the teeth that touches the cheek usually gains the most tartar; it is best to end on a downward motion. Pet toothpaste works differently than our toothpaste. It contains enzymes that will continue to work after you’ve done your part.
Become familiar with the possible mouth problems that your pet could encounter. Bacteria and plaque-forming foods build up on your pet’s teeth and can harden into tartar/calculus within 24 to 48 hours. Without proper care this can lead to many disorders, such as: periodontal disease, gingivitis, swollen gums, mouth tumors and cysts. Without treatment your pet could also suffer from heart, lung, liver and/or kidney diseases from the infection getting into their bloodstream. Be sure to check with your veterinarian if you notice any of the following:
- offensive bad breath
- excessive drooling
- red/white colored and swollen gums
- any ulcers, tumors, or cysts
- loose teeth
- difficulty chewing
- continuous pawing at the mouth
The most important thing to do is address dental disease as soon as you detect signs. No matter how minor. Your vet should conduct an oral exam during the normal check up visit. Save yourself from high bills for professional tooth cleaning, and remember to care for your pet’s teeth everyday.