What to do at the Vet
It’s essential, not just recommended, you take your dogs and cats in for regular periodontal checkups and cleaning. How often this needs to happen depends on a few different factors, such as:
- How quickly plaque builds
- How well you take care of your pet’s teeth at home
- Play habits
- Favorite toys
The veterinarian will help you work out a unique plan for your pet’s dental needs, so you’ll have a clearer idea of how often you can expect to go in for a visit. However, if you notice yellow or brown plaque building up around the gum line, that’s absolutely a sign that a cleaning is in order. Likewise, if an accident has occurred that resulted in chipped or broken teeth – such as a fall or gnawing a little too eagerly on a bone – you’ll need to schedule an appointment.
Dentist appointments for your pets proceed similarly to those for humans, with one major exception. Cats and dogs may be anesthetized to ensure they don’t feel anxious or scared while their teeth are being cleaned. This is a safe, routine step in the process, and their vitals are monitored at all times.
From there, the procedures your pet will undertake should look familiar to you:
- Cavity checks
- Tissue evaluation
- Jaw evaluation
Remember, like you, proper oral care for your pet begins at home. You can’t rely completely on your veterinarian to take care of everything. Your cat and/or dog depends on you spending a little bit of time every day to ensure they remain happy and healthy.
What to Do at Home
If you can, brush your pet’s teeth at least once a day using a special kit just for their breed and/or size. Alternately, a toothbrush with soft bristles and enzymatic toothpaste from your veterinarian will also suffice.
However, your schedule may not always make it amenable to brush your pet’s teeth this often. That isn’t the only measure you can take to care for his or her periodontal health, although it remains the number one guard against gingivitis and other major oral issues. Plaque-fighting foods are a viable option. Ask your vet about which brands are recommended, particularly if you have an indoor pet where weight and hairball control (when applicable) are major concerns.
In addition, practice caution when purchasing toys for your pet. Chewing and gnawing help keep teeth, gums and the jaw strong, but if they’re too hard, they might lead to chipping or breaking. Hooves are problematic. Choose softer options like rubber or nylon that provide some healthy resistance without putting your pet’s mouth at risk.
And, as fun as it is, tug-of-war with your dog isn’t always in the best interest of his or her oral health. Even toys made of “friendly” materials can still cause loosened, chipped or broken teeth when pulled on too hard. Try fetch or other games instead.
Finally, once a month, invest some time in studying your pet’s teeth for plaque and other signifiers of periodontal disease. It may be uncomfortable for the both of you, but it’s a small price to pay to ensure your cat or dog lives a full, healthy life.
Signs of Dental Issues
Over 80 percent of dogs suffer from diseases of the mouth, so owners must be cognizant of what to look for during their monthly checkups. With care and precision, keep a keen eye out for the following:
- Especially bad breath
- Loose, chipped or broken teeth
- More drooling than normal
- Gum recession
(Please note the same identifiers of periodontal disease are applicable to cats as well.)
At the first sign of these issues, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian immediately. Don’t let them worsen over time, as they can lead to compromises in organ function and stability.
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