February is pet dental month. This was started by the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) to encourage pet owners to examine and treat dental health issues their pets may be experiencing.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reports 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some kind of oral disease by the age of three.
How do we avoid our pets getting these dental issues? Is there a magic bullet that can cure all dental disease? Unfortunately, there is nothing that will magically fix our pets mouths. There are, however, many things we can do to help avoid dental problems.
When we thing dental health, we think brushing. Brushing your dog’s teeth can help dramatically, and if you start them early and make it a fun activity to share, you may be able to prevent many dental issues by brushing regularly. Brush after meals, using either a finger brush (there are brushes which are like a thimble, but have bristles on one side) or pet tooth brushes that resemble conventional toothbrushes, that are just a different shape or size.
Using a brush on a pet is just like brushing your own teeth, up and down, get the molars, and use a good paste/gel. Some pastes and gels have flavours that make the pet enjoy the brushing session. And just like brushing our teeth, it is important to do a complete job, and do it regularly, if you want this to be your plan to prevent the need for dental cleaning, which can be expensive and the procedure and anaesthesia may endanger older pets.
There are sprays which can be administered more easily than brushing, and while they may be effective, they won’t be as effective as proper brushing. But there are some pets that will not allow brushing, but may accept the spray product. Another way to get pets to brush their own teeth is by using a toy designed to be used with toothpaste and have the dog use it to mimic a brushing action. For dogs that will use these toys, this is a very easy way to brush their teeth.
There are water additives that work in various ways to prevent build up as well. These work great for some pets, and not at all for others, so you may have to try them out to see if they are for you.
Foods are now marketed as being “dental formula” as well as “dental chews”. Some find these effective, but my experience is that while they do reduce plaque and tartar, the pet may still require dental cleaning. My concern with these products is that they contain chemicals and abrasives, yet are meant to be consumed. If these are strong enough to affect the teeth during the brief time in the mouth, what effect will they have on the digestive system?
There are plenty of natural products that you can use to enhance dental health. Fed after meals, they can help flush food particles out of the pet’s mouth that may help feed plaque and tartar. Beef tendons, bones, bully sticks; beef, pig or rabbit ears; chicken or duck necks, feet, wings are just a few of the options available. For small dogs and cats, chicken necks have been referred to as “nature’s toothbrush”. If they are combined with a raw diet, these are chemical free ways to perfect dental health, and improved overall health of your pets.
Some pets just have naturally bad teeth, a genetic predisposition to bad dental health. I had a dachsy who never chewed anything hard, and had two fractured molars just from eating kibble. Sometimes, there is nothing you can do. But in most cases, proactive action can reduce or prevent dental issues later in life, issues that can cause pain and huge veterinary bills. An ounce of prevention…