Every February, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors a month-long awareness campaign on the importance of your pet’s dental health. Each year the AVMA promotes dental health with a variety of announcements and programs. Many veterinarians across the country join in by offering discounts and special promotions to encourage pet owners to monitor and proactively care for their pet’s teeth.Last year, for Pet Dental Health month, we wrote about the special programs that the AVMA offers.
This year we want to provide some tips to pet owners on home care of your pet’s teeth and when you should seek out your veterinarian for assistance.
Obviously, regular brushing is the most important step you can take to keep your pet’s smile bright and shiny, but it can be a challenge as most pet’s don’t really like the whole process. Cats are trickier than dogs and need special handling. You can make it a more pleasant experience for both you and your pet by following some of these tips:
- Use the right equipment, invest in a special pet toothbrush.
- Don’t use human toothpaste, buy toothpaste made for pets.
- Introduce the toothpaste to your pet over time, so they associate it with a good thing prior to beginning a brushing routine.
- Do the same with the brush, slowly introduce them to it and let them get comfortable with it being put in their mouth.
- Be prepared to let them go if they become anxious or upset. This is a SLOW process, don’t expect them to immediately allow you to brush their teeth. It could take weeks before they let you brush all of their teeth in one session.
- When you’re ready to brush, sit them in corner to reduce escape routes.
- Slowly and gently lift their lip to expose the outside surface of their teeth.
- Focus on the outside surface of their teeth, you are unlikely to get your pet to allow you to brush the inside surfaces.
- Start small – do just a few teeth and stop. Do a different few teeth the next day and a few more the day after. It’s not like humans where they need a good thorough brushing twice a day.
- Be gentle with them, keep it light and fun and devoid of frustration or anger.
- Have their favorite toy and a reward ready when you’re done.
- Start early with puppies to get them used to it right from the start.
- For cats, you can follow the above steps, but use gauze wrapped on your fingers instead of a brush.In addition to regular brushing other tools to help keep your pet’s teeth & gums strong include:
- Natural chews - like deer antlers or specially made treats like Greenies.
- Chew toys – choose carefully to ensure they are indestructible.
- Kibble – keep some hard kibble or crunchy treats in their diet as they help keep teeth clean.
You should check in with your veterinarian regularly and ask them to check the condition of your pet’s teeth and gums. If you’ve neglected them for years, it is possible for the vet to clean them. The pet does need to be anesthetized for this procedure, so sometimes it’s done in conjunction with another procedure. Best thing to do is check in with your vet on if and when this might be necessary for your pet.
The month of February, Pet Dental Health month is a good time to take stock of your pet’s teeth and get them on a regular dental health program.Sources: