Keeping Your Pet’s Teeth Clean

Keeping your dogs teeth clean is very important for their oral health.

Nobody wants to go to the dentist. Even brushing and flossing can be a hassle for some of us. But we do it to have healthy teeth and gums.

However, things can get tricky when it comes to dogs and cats. Many pets are not happy when someone handles their mouths. So what is the best way to properly care for our pets’ teeth?

First of all, feeding your pet a well-balanced, quality diet and brushing your pets’ teeth daily with a healthy pet toothpaste or gel will go a long way, said Dr. Sabrina Keigley, director of VCA Arroyo Animal Hospital in Lake Forest.

Gold long-haired dachshund holds toothbrush in its mouth like a bone. A nearby cup contains dog bone and another toothbrush.

“Avoid any human products, especially ones with fluoride,” she said. “Fluoride is toxic and can make our pets deathly ill. Also, we want to avoid excess sugars, and of course any ingredients that our pets are sensitive or allergic to.”

If you have a puppy or kitten, this is the best time to get your pet used to having its mouth handled and inspected, Keigley said.

She adds that you should consult with your vet before giving your pet any new product

“Coconut oil in very small amounts can be used on the gum line as well to make a mild reduction in inflammation as well as infection if used appropriately,” Keigley said. “This is not appropriate for all pets, based on overall body health, and is not to be used in place of a good dental hygiene program, but can be a step within that program.”

Other products sold to help keep pets’ teeth clean include edible dental chews, animal-sourced natural chews like antlers, oral rinses, prescription diets, food additives, dental treats and topical dental sprays.

“I recommend avoiding deer/elk antlers as they are too hard,” said Dr. Adam Lassin, holistic veterinarian at Hemopet Holistic Care Center in Garden Grove. “I have seen too many fractured teeth secondary to chewing on deer or elk antlers.”

Proponents of raw feeding often cite healthy teeth and gums as a benefit of their pets eating raw meaty bones (raw chicken backs, for example) and chewing recreational raw bones.

“The teeth cleaning happens as the pet is chewing on the bones for longer periods and the bones are scraping the teeth and gums,” said Christy Subia, regional sales manager for Primal Pet Foods Southwest. “The bones are also lacking in any sugars or starches – besides what is naturally found in the meat – so there is nothing to cause plaque and tartar.” When it comes to professional dental cleanings, some pet owners are reluctant due to the use of anesthetic.

Keigley says tartar buildup, a red line along the gum line or broken teeth are good reasons to consult your vet to assess what is needed, including whether professional dental cleaning is appropriate.

Before a professional cleaning, pets must be medically screened and tested to make sure they are healthy enough. As with any procedure requiring general anesthesia, there is always some risk, which can include difficulties recovering or cardiac arrest, she says.

“These events are extremely rare and are best avoided by doing testing ahead of time,” Keigley said. If you want to avoid anesthesia, some places offer teeth cleaning services using calming, swaddling and other techniques instead.  For pet owners looking for more advanced tooth care, veterinary dentists are specialists who may offer root canals, crowns, doggy “braces” and more, said Keigley.

“Dentistry does not have to be scary,” Keigley said. “Dental health is a huge part of keeping our pets healthy and happy.”

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