“Ignore your teeth! They’ll go away.” That’s what a poster in my dentists office proclaimed 40 years ago. The importance of clean and healthy mouths is continually brought home to us. Our pets’ mouths need the same attention. As our animal friends age, dental health affects far more than just the teeth and gums.
Gingivitis and periodontal disease may spread to the urinary tract, heart valves, and other systems of the body. Inflammation of the gums and bone around the teeth can result in an elevation in inflammatory proteins. It may also cause bone loss, leading to the loosening and eventual complete loss of teeth.
Finally, oral pain or discomfort may decrease the quality of your pet’s life, affecting his/her willingness to groom and play. In fact, your pet’s dental health may even affect the quality of your life: those kisses smell pretty nasty when your pet has a simmering inflammation!
It’s essential to condition puppies and kittens to be comfortable with the handling of their lips and mouths at an early age. We encourage clients to brush their pets’ teeth and gums often, daily if possible. Brushes for both dogs and cats are available, in addition to a variety or toothpastes and mouth rinses/sprays. Some dogs find a piece of gauze or a small cloth – wrapped around the owner’s index finger – more palatable (so to speak!) than a brush; likewise, some cats prefer a Q-Tip.
For those of you who hardly have time to brush your own teeth, let alone your pet’s – or who want a supplement to brushing – consider the use of a special diet. For example, Science Diet T/D is a food that has been formulated into large kibbles for cats and dogs; the large size of the kibbles requires that pets use their molars in order to swallow. Since the T/D is rather high in calories, it is best used as a daily snack, rather than as a maintenance diet.