Every year we hear about Pet Dental Month. It is a reminder that our pets have teeth, and that those teeth need care, just like ours. And we should be conscious of this, but not just one month a year, but all year round.
Dental issues, both in people and in pets, can lead to other problems. This makes dental health an important part of overall wellbeing of the animals in our charge. Poor oral hygiene can lead to systemic infections, and can challenge the immune system.
Its not hard to improve dental health in our pets, and there are many commercial options out there for you to choose. Yes, these dental treats and foods will reduce dental issues, but convenience can come with a cost. As with anything we buy for our pets to consume, it is important to read the label, and know what it is we are subjecting our pets to.
Some may contain ingredients that don't fit the diet we have our pets on. Many contain potential allergens, like wheat, soy or corn, that we may have eliminated from our pet's food, but forget to check the ingredient listing on the dental treats, negating all the good we do in buying a grain free pet food. Even one little dental stick or green chew can cause an allergic reaction requiring a vet visit. So, if you have a pet with allergies, remember that anything they consume has to meet those standards of being hypo allergenic.
A product can't make the claim "proven to reduce tartar" without laboratory proof that it does. But I have yet to see a product claim to "eliminate" tartar. So, sure, a food or chew may reduce tartar, but in most cases, the tartar will still exist. In most cases, it will still require veterinary intervention to remove it. Reducing tartar is good, it will make a dental cleaning easier, but the procedure will most likely still require anesthesia, which may be something you are trying to avoid, both for the stress on the animal, and the cost.
There are liquids you can add to drinking water that also help reduce tartar build up. Most of these work by making the teeth slippery so that food particles don't stick. Some use herbal oils to cover breath odor. Again, they help, but don't eliminate the issue.
Brushing a pets teeth will help, and it is a good bonding time as well. Training a pet early to the procedure, and making it a habit goes a long way to making it painless for both parties. Trying to start to brush an older pets teeth when they have never done it before can be a challenge with a lot of pets, and impossible for some. There are finger brushes and conventional toothbrushes you can use, depending on which is easier for your pet. There are pastes and gels, most work like human toothpaste through a mechanical scraping with abrasives. Some of the gels work by using botanical oils to soften the buildup and make removal easier by brushing.
There are other means commercially available to address dental issues, through diet and use of natural products as chews and treats. Many can actually eliminate plaque and tartar. Integrative or holistic veterinarians will use these as their main recommendation, and most veterinarians can advise you on these natural alternatives.
Dental health is an important part of every creatures wellbeing, and its a 12 month a year job, not just February. Lets keep all our pets smiling year round.