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Posted on 03-09-2016
At home dental care can make a remarkable difference in your pet’s comfort and health. There are several hygiene options to choose from to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation. What matters most is whether or not home oral hygiene can be provided to your pet for their entire lifespan. Ideally, it would be great to brush your pet’s teeth at least once a day but we understand that it can be a daunting task. To keep you from giving up we have provided a list of options and techniques that you can apply to your pet’s daily routine that will help keep the tartar at bay. When you combine several methods you will achieve the best results. All methods of home oral hygiene help prevent or control periodontal disease by minimizing the plaque (bacterial film) accumulation, and preventing the mineralization of the plaque to form calculus (“tartar”).
BRUSHING: Like humans, brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective way to maintain their oral health between professional dental care. Plaque is a dental bacterial film that, if allowed to mineralize, will form calculus which is the first stage of periodontal disease. Plaque is easily disrupted by simply brushing the teeth. Frequent (ideally daily) brushing is recommended to maintain optimal dental health. Most pets will eventually tolerate brushing their teeth. The key to success is being patient in your approach and slowly introducing your pet to the idea of brushing.
Remember that you cannot use human toothpaste, the abrasives and high-foaming detergents in the toothpaste itself are not safe for your pet to digest or inhale.There are pet specific toothpastes and they come in variety of pet friendly flavors such as poultry and seafood.
ORAL RINSE, Gel and Water Additives: Chlorhexidine is the most effective anti-plaque antiseptic. The chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues and tooth surfaces and gradually releases into the oral cavity. It is safe for pets but is bitter tasting and additional flavor enhancers are needed to be palatable to your pet. Some pets may object to the taste while others accept it with no issue.
If you are using a rinse, you apply it by squirting a small amount inside the cheek pouches on each side of the mouth. This acts like a mouth wash and the enzymes of the chlorhexidine will help break down plaque. The gel is applied by smearing it onto the teeth and will also break down plaque when your pet’s saliva activates it. Water additives are a lot simpler but not as effective as the rinse or gel are. The additive can be poured into your pet’s water bowl daily and each time your pet drinks water they will have help breaking down plaque.
DIETS and CHEWS: There are several dental diets out there that have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease. Some have a specific kibble design while others include a chemical anti-tartar poly-phosphate ingredient. Always consult with your veterinarian before starting a dental diet, especially if your pet is on a prescription diet, as the dental diet may not meet the specific medical needs of your pet. In some instances, we recommend that pet parents use the dental kibble as a daily treat to allow the diet to help but to also work alongside their needed prescription diet.
Dental rawhide products and chew treats can be helpful if they are chewed daily. Chews or rawhides may be designed in a particular way to help rub against the teeth and act as a brushing action. Others are impregnated or treated with chlorhexidine which is activated by your pet’s saliva. Again, palatability is key and chewing every day is ideal.
Also important to think about the safety of the chew you are providing your pet. Dogs love to chew on bones, however, this habit can be detrimental to their dental health. Depending on how hard the bone or chew toy is, it can potentially break teeth or damage gums. Remember to keep an eye on your pet when they are chewing and if you see blood or your pet becomes sensitive when chewing their food you may want to have their mouth checked out.
Chew toys are only a benefit if they are played with frequently. Pets should be monitored while chewing a chew treat or toy, as they may swallow large pieces, leading to a variety of digestive system disorders.
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