February is National Pet Dental Health Month, which makes it a good time to focus on your pet’s oral hygiene.
Puppies and kittens all begin life with clean, white teeth. (And is there anything sweeter than puppy breath?) Healthy teeth are an important part of a pet’s overall health. As time goes by, plaque builds up and decay can set in. Bacteria in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious infections, as in humans.
Although you may consider the dental bones that Fido gnaws on and the healthy kibble Kitty downs to be sufficient to keep their choppers in top working order, they may not be.
Learning how to brush your pet’s teeth can help to keep them in good working order and prevent diseases.
When and How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
- Use toothpaste or a cleaning product designed for the animal. Human toothpastes have chemicals that can be toxic to pets if swallowed. Find appropriate products at a pet store or ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
- Take your time. Before you introduce the toothbrush, get your pet accustomed to having your hands near his mouth. While the two of you are relaxed, use your fingers to stroke his cheek like you would when you start brushing his teeth.
- Give him a taste. Squeeze a small portion of the special toothpaste onto your finger and let him taste. Pet toothpaste is formulated to have a pleasant flavor for their tastebuds.
- Introduce the toothbrush. The first few times you try, you may end up brushing just a few teeth before your pet starts to squirm or rebel. That’s okay. Don’t force it.
- Stop while it’s still fun. You don’t want to make your pet afraid of the toothbrush. Quit brushing while he’s still enjoying it and praise and snuggle with him afterwards. If you make this time fun for both of you, you’ll ultimately be able to brush without a struggle.
- Keep trying. Slowly work up to cleaning the pet’s entire mouth, especially the molars in the back. Don’t worry too much about getting to the inside of his mouth. If you only brush teeth on the outside, you’ll still get most of the plaque.
- Reap the rewards. One of the big advantages of brushing your pet’s teeth regularly, and starting from an early age, is that his teeth may not require professional cleaning. That involves placing the animal under anesthesia and can be expensive, especially if there is tooth decay. This makes the procedure something most pet owners wish to prevent, of possible.
Do speak to your veterinarian if your pet has very bad breath. Although bad oral hygiene is most often the cause, it could reflect other health problems.
Some pet owners swear that their dog or cat actually smiles. Helping them maintain a set of clean choppers will give them another reason to do so.