February is Pet Dental Month which makes it a good time to think about when your dog (or cat) last had a teeth cleaning. (Has it been awhile?)
Tartar, plaque buildup, and periodontal disease are just as bad for your pet’s health as it is for yours. Plus, it’s painful and expensive to treat as you know if you’ve ever had emergency dental surgery. Some senior dogs suffer with painful, swollen gums, but it doesn’t have to happen to yours.
Fortunately, with a little maintenance, you can help keep your dog or cat’s teeth and gums healthy.
How to Tell if Your Pet Has a Healthy Mouth
It starts with a baseline. Are your pet’s teeth and gums already healthy? Puppies and kittens usually start life with glistening white teeth, though as they age, those teeth get gunked up with food particles and plaque that turns into tartar leading to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Take a look at your pet’s teeth, what do you see? Are they sparkly white or are they edged in black? Are the gums a healthy, pale pink or are they bright and swollen? If you see teeth edged in black, that’s a sign of tartar while bright pink gums may be a sign of gum disease.
When you take your dog in for his annual wellness visit, your veterinarian may choose to do a mouth x-ray because this will show early indicators of gum disease.
How to Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Clean
There are certain dog chews that help clean tartar off your dog’s teeth though don’t rely on those alone. For the healthiest teeth and gums, you’ll also want to incorporate regular tooth brushings.
There are doggie size toothbrushes and pet-safe toothpaste to make the job a little easier. If you’ve never done it before, know that it may take a few tries before your dog lets you brush his teeth. This is one reason why you’d want to start them as a puppy.
Wait until your dog is in a restful mood and then either use a cloth over your finger or one of those toothbrushes that fit on your finger and gently rub it over your dog’s teeth. Depending on your dog, you may be able to run your finger over most, if not all of his or her teeth or you may be barely able to touch the teeth. Each dog is different and some are more tolerant than others.
The key is to get your dog used to having your fingers in his or her mouth and that may take a few sessions. Once your dog is ok with this, you can introduce pet-safe toothpaste. Because dogs will eat the toothpaste, it’s important that you get some designed for them rather than using human toothpaste. People toothpaste have ingredients in them that can cause upset tummies when ingested.
Besides, doggie toothpaste comes in flavors like chicken and beef and what dog wouldn’t appreciate those flavors?
What Can You Expect from a Professional Dog or Cat Teeth Cleaning?
If it’s been awhile since your dog’s teeth were cleaned and you can see the tartar buildup, you’ll probably need a professional cleaning first. That way, you’re starting with a “clean palate” so to speak.
Your veterinarian will advise you on the process for your pet though typically, dogs and cats are put “under” for a deep teeth cleaning. However, anesthesia isn’t safe for all pets so bloodwork is usually done to evaluate the dog or cat’s health before anesthesia is administrated.
Your veterinarian will offer recommendations based on your pet’s health.