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If you’re like most pet parents, you probably brush your own teeth daily for fresh breath and to avoid a painful visit to the dentist. But how often do you think about your pet’s dental health? If you’ve never given Fluffy a good dental cleaning, that’s okay – you’re not alone. Only an estimated 4% of cat owners and 8% of dog owners brush their pets’ teeth. Yikes!

The good news is it’s never too late to pick up good habits.

Why does pet dental health matter?

Caring for your pet’s oral hygiene is about much more than bad breath (though, stinky breath can certainly be a sign of dental disease!). Without regular attention, your pet’s teeth can accumulate plaque, which can then turn into hard, yellow tartar. Tartar attracts bacteria, which can in turn lead to the development of oral abscesses, loose teeth, and inflamed gums that are painful and can prevent your pet from eating and playing as they normally do.

Detecting and treating tartar earlier will prevent these serious dental problems, saving your pet from unnecessary pain and you from an expensive trip to the emergency room. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, you should have your pet’s teeth evaluated at least once a year by your vet. Your vet may even recommend a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia to remove tartar.

What can I do at home to keep my pet’s teeth healthy?

Aside from regular vet visits, here are some other steps you can take at home to keep your pet’s teeth strong and healthy:

Brush those teeth: Experts recommend daily brushing for your pet — but if that seems like a tall order, strive for at least three times per week. Here’s a video with some tips on brushing your dog’s teeth, and here’s another version for cat owners.

Invest in some pet toothpaste: Save the Colgate for yourself. Human toothpaste is toxic to cats and dogs. Your pet needs pet-safe toothpaste, which you can buy at any pet store. The great thing about pet toothpaste is that comes in yummy flavors like chicken and beef that will make brushing a treat!

Supplement with dental treats and toys: In addition to tooth brushing, there are other things you can consider to keep those pearly whites, well, pearly. This includes treats, chew toys, special liquid drops you can add into your pet’s water dish, and oral gels. Check out the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website for a list of council-approved products that are proven to tackle plaque and tartar.

Look out for red flags: If your pet shows symptoms such as decreased appetite, excess drooling, foul breath, or bleeding from the mouth, make an appointment with your vet as these could be signs of serious dental disease.

If you have further questions about your pet’s dental health or want specific recommendations, reach out to your veterinarian. Happy brushing!

January 25, 2023

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