You wouldn’t go days, or even months, without brushing your teeth, so why should your pet? Although they don’t have the capability to do it themselves, research shows that good oral hygiene is important for your pet’s overall health and wellbeing. As such, a daily brushing should be part of their routine.
It is never too late or too early to start brushing your cat or dog’s teeth; you just need to know how. Some pets may not like having their teeth brushed right off the start but with some patience, and by easing in to the process, it can become an enjoyable way to bond.
How to brush your pet’s teeth:
Start by dipping your finger into beef broth for dogs or tuna water for cats, and gently rubbing your finger over their teeth and gums.
Once your pet is used to their teeth and gums being touched by your hands, add a piece of gauze. Wrap the gauze around your finger, again dip it in beef broth or tuna water, and gently scrub their teeth in a circular motion.
After a few days of using the gauze you will be ready to introduce a toothbrush and toothpaste. Select a toothbrush specifically designed for pets or use an ultra-soft toothbrush designed for people. There is also special pet toothpaste as the human kind can upset your pet’s stomach.
Why Regular Brushing is Important
Brushing your pet’s teeth is about more than just white teeth and fresh breath; it is vital to their overall health and wellness. Neglecting dental hygiene in your cat or dog can lead to gingivitis and even periodontal disease, which is linked to other serious health issues including heart disease, kidney failure and diabetes.
Periodontal, or gum disease, occurs when food particles and bacteria collect along the gum line and form plaque. Over time, the plaque turns into rock-hard tartar which will inflame the gums if it is not removed. As the inflamed gums begin to separate from the teeth, pockets form and more bacteria can grow, causing the periodontal disease to worsen. At this point your pet may experience severe pain, lose teeth, form abscesses in the mouth and develop a bacterial infection that can spread through the bloodstream to the kidneys, liver, heart or brain.
Periodontal disease is irreversible. However, it is easily prevented simply by brushing the teeth.
Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene
Daily brushing of the teeth is strongly recommended, especially for breeds such as pugs and bulldogs whose teeth are closer together and overlap. If once a day can’t be done, aim to brush your pet’s teeth at least several times a week to keep gum disease at bay.
The foods your pet eats can also have positive or negative effects on their teeth. Look for foods with high-quality ingredients that combine nutrients, anti-oxidants and fibre. There are even brands available that have been clinically proven to help scrub teeth and reduce plaque build-up.
Finally, regular vet visits are important for your pet’s overall health. If you notice your pet has bad breath, if there is a change in their overall eating or chewing habits, or if they’re pawing at their face or mouth or seem to be depressed, get them in for a dental exam.