Don’t neglect your pet’s oral health. Consider these tips from Richard Meadows, DVM, MU College of Veterinary Medicine Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor and director of the Veterinary Health Center’s Community Practice Section.
Watch for symptoms of dental disease. Although pets frequently show no symptoms, signs of dental problems can include not chewing on food or chew toys, chewing on only one side of the mouth, excessive drooling and bad breath. Pets shouldn’t have bad breath. If their breath stinks, anaerobic bacteria could be growing underneath the gum surface.
Brush their teeth. There is no substitute for brushing teeth. It is the gold standard. Ideally, you should brush pets’ teeth daily, but at minimum you should brush them at least every 48 hours. That’s because after 48 to 72 hours plaque turns into calculus, which cannot be brushed off teeth. Dogs and cats produce calculus five times as fast as humans.
For more information on how to brush pets’ teeth, the American Veterinary Medical Association offers a video with step-by-step instructions.
Have your pet’s teeth cleaned regularly by your veterinarian. If you’re not brushing their teeth, pets generally need annual cleanings. However, that can be prolonged to two to three years with good home care. Although it might seem surprising that pets need cleanings so frequently, what would happen to you if you didn’t brush your teeth?
Consider products designed to help prevent dental disease. Examples include food, water additives and chew toys. However, claims for these products aren’t regulated. Ask your veterinarian for advice, or check the product on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website, http://vohc.org. Products listed on the site have been independently tested to verify their claims.
When purchasing chew toys, test them for safety. Unless you can dent the toy with your thumbnail or bend it between your hands, a product is too hard and could break teeth.