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Have You Brushed Your Pet’s Teeth Today?

Oral disease is one of the most widespread health problems affecting pets today: a startling 80% of dogs and 70% of cats are developing gingivitis or periodontal disease by age three, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. Bad breath and discoloration are two early signs of trouble.

Fortunately, oral disease is quite preventable. Since February is Pet Dental Health month, it’s a good time to start a regular dental care regimen.

How problems develop

Dogs are especially prone to developing calculus, which is laden with bacteria. Over time, plaque forms between the tooth and gum and eventually hardens into tartar. Small dogs actually develop tartar faster than big dogs, because their teeth are closer together and more likely to trap food particles and bacteria between them.

As in humans, tartar that is not removed can cause infection along the gum line, causing the gums to separate from the teeth. This allows even more bacteria to accumulate, and, left untreated, will lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease.

In addition to swollen and tender gums, receding gums, bleeding, pain and bad breath, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss. Even worse, the infection caused by periodontal disease may enter the bloodstream, potentially reaching the heart, liver and kidneys.

What you can do

Be sure your pet receives an oral exam during his regular veterinary health check-up. In between, there are several things that you can do at home to improve and maintain your pet’s dental health.

Brush regularly – It’s important to brush your pet’s teeth often so plaque doesn’t form. He may balk at first, but if you introduce the process gradually, he’ll soon become accustomed to the routine. Keep sessions short, be gentle, and offer plenty of praise. If you’re having difficulty getting started, check with you pet’s groomer. Many professional groomers offer tooth brushing as a service.

Use pet toothpaste – Never use “human” toothpaste on your pet; it can cause serious stomach upset. Purchase a toothpaste specially-formulated for pets (it’s safe to swallow and flavored to appeal to your pet) and use only a very small amount. Check you your local Best Friends. A pet toothbrush is also a good investment;  but ask for assistance in selecting the correct size for your pet.

Add healthy food and treats – Some pet foods are now formulated to combat plaque and tartar build-up and have been proven to be a highly effective oral health tool. There are also tartar control biscuits, bones, and treats that, with regular use, can help reduce tartar buildup above the gumline. Visit the dentist – Bad breath and yellow brown teeth are warning signs that your pet needs to be examined by your veterinarian. If your pet’s dental condition has deteriorated, there may be no option but to have teeth and gums professionally cleaned.

Taking a little extra time on a regular basis to care for your dog’s teeth will assure good dental health and prevent serious dental and medical problems. For more information, visit