A lot of pet parents don’t think about oral health for our dogs and cats until we get a whiff of some bad breath, notice a change in eating or chewing behavior or – worst yet – see some swollen, bleeding gums. But the truth of the matter is that the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body; a happy, healthy mouth can lead to a happy, healthy pet.
Dogs use their teeth to chew, eat and play games like tug of war and fetch, so dental disease, which causes pain and can lead to other problems in the body, can really impact their normal, everyday activities. The vast majority of dogs and cats have some form of dental disease before they turn 3-years-old, making it a common condition that plagues our pets. And while it may seem daunting, there are a myriad of ways to approach caring for your pet’s pearly whites.
Despite us brushing our own teeth multiple times per day, most pet parents in the United States don’t brush their pet’s teeth. Thankfully the marketplace has a variety of simple tools that can help this activity become a regular part of your routine. There are pet-specific toothbrushes of various sizes with toothpaste that comes in delicious flavors such as chicken and beef that are made specifically for pets.
Avoid using human toothpaste, as some contain xylitol, which is toxic to our pets. If a toothbrush is too cumbersome, a simple piece of gauze wrapped around your fingertip can be used; simply rub your finger along the gum line and teeth to remove the plaque before it becomes tartar. Introducing this activity at an early age can make it easier as they grow up. The brushing routine also gets your pet comfortable with having their mouths touched, which is helpful when they go in for their checkups at the veterinarian. Lastly, it’s a great way to bond with your pet.
Speaking of checkups, regular exams by your veterinarian are critical. Many times, you can catch an oral health issue early before it becomes a bigger, more serious problem. We all know that most dogs love to eat, so they won’t want to miss a meal even if they are suffering from a cracked, painful tooth. Your veterinarian is often able to see these types of oral issues when they conduct a physical exam and can quickly recommend a path to get the mouth clean and healthy again.
Most pet parents give their dogs treats, and with dental-specific options like our Merrick Fresh Kisses treats available with added functional benefit such as cleaning teeth and freshening breath, treating can do much more than reward good behavior. When selecting a dental treat for your dog, make sure to select an option that meets the needs of your dog’s life stage and weight.
When deciding what’s best for your pet, it’s always smart to start by having a conversation with your veterinarian. Every dog is different, and their oral health regimen should be tailored based on the life stage and breed size or type.
For example, puppies’ teeth tend to be smaller, more sensitive and a bit more vulnerable in comparison to an adult dog’s permanent teeth. Also, smaller and brachycephalic breed dogs are predisposed to earlier onset dental issues. By taking proper care of your pet’s oral health and making it a daily priority by establishing a routine, a pet parent may help delay a potentially expensive veterinary visit and, more importantly, may keep your dog healthier.