An astounding 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. As February is Pet Dental Month, this is a great time to do something about it.
Dental care may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of our pet’s health. Maybe it should be. When a dog or cat develops gum disease, it can affect their whole body. Infections in the mouth can migrate into the bloodstream, through to vital organs, such as the heart and kidneys. Ongoing dental infections can also weaken the immune system, lowering resistance to non-dental health issues.
Just like in your own mouth, regular dental care from a young age can help keep your pet’s breath fresh, teeth clean and reduce, eliminate or even prevent gum disease. It can also save you vet bills. Daily teeth-brushing is the most effective treatment but for pets (or pet parents) who are not receptive to this, there are other options that can help!
When Oral Hygiene Goes Bad
Plaque is the first stage of dental problems. It’s like a thin, sticky coating being put over the teeth. Bacteria from food particles and cells that are sloughed off in the mouth form plaque. It takes as little as a day for plaque to start to form and within three to four days, there is a noticeable layer on the teeth.
The good thing about plaque is that it’s fairly soft and usually easy to remove with a little scrubbing. Unfortunately, the presence of sticky plaque allows more bacteria to adhere to the teeth.
The next step in dental disease is the formation of tartar, sometimes called calculus. The harmful bacteria in the plaque on the teeth form very hard deposits on the teeth using minerals – mostly calcium. This tartar is difficult to remove and its presence on the teeth leads to more and more build-up. It’s the proverbial ‘vicious circle.’ Worse than the unsightly look of black tartar on the teeth, the bacteria forming the tartar produce many nasty toxins.
These toxins eat away at the gums causing them to get red and bleed. This is called gingivitis. If left untreated, the gums can recede to the point that the teeth will fall out. The toxins produced can also attack other organs in the body – most notably the heart – by travelling through the blood. Another noticeable side effect of the toxins is their smell, which causes bad breath.
Fixing the Problem
Brush & Scrape
The most effective way to remove plaque is physical brushing/abrasion. This needs to be done frequently enough to prevent the formation of tartar. Once tartar begins to form, brushing alone is not going to remove it all. Ideally a pet’s teeth should be brushed at least every other day. If the plaque is removed, the bacteria have nothing to adhere to and are washed away with saliva.
Weaken the Structure
The structure of tartar can be weakened if the calcium is replaced by another mineral, such as phosphorus. Basically, the phosphorus replaces calcium in the structure of the tartar, causing the tartar to weaken and crumble.
Ingredients, such as hexametaphosphate and sodium tripolyphosphate, are used in pet foods, and treats, to help reduce tartar build up. The “trona minerals” in Wysong DentaTreat function in a similar manner as phosphorus, weakening tartar for easier removal, which in turn reduces bacteria.
Eliminate the Source
Another solution is to eliminate bacteria from the mouth, preventing the whole process of plaque and tartar build-up from starting. Most dental aids designed for pets rely on eliminating bacteria by using an ingredient that has antimicrobial activity. Mouth washes, rinses and sprays usually have an antimicrobial ingredient.
The limitation of most antimicrobial ingredients is that they work only while they are present in the mouth. One reason Wysong DentaTreat works well is the fat in the cheese helps give it a longer residence time in the mouth. It’s also easy to use, as it can be sprinkled on food or mixed with water to form a paste for direct application to a pet’s teeth.
One of the best ways to keep your pet’s mouth clean and healthy is by brushing their teeth each day. With toothpaste in dog-friendly flavors and toothbrushes (from extra-soft traditional-styles to finger brushes), our pet dental kits have what you need to get started. Never use human toothpaste for pets, as it contains chemicals that can make them sick.
Pastes, Gels and Water Additives
These time-saving dental products work wonders cleaning pet’s teeth. They are easy to apply to your pets teeth, or simply add to their water, and they are effective.
Many toys provide dental benefits plus fun. From rope toys to specialized cat toys, benefits range from cleaning and massaging gums to flossing and removing tartar.
Reward your pet’s good behavior with a treat that also improves oral health! From bite-sized to edible bones in all shapes and sizes, these treats can contribute to reduced tartar buildup, fresher breath and healthy gums.
Kibble or Stew?
Dogs and cats that are fed a soft food diet (rather than kibble) often suffer from greater tartar build-up. This is because kibble scrapes the teeth – but dry kibble alone is not enough to maintain good oral health for most cats and dogs.
Time for a Trim
Dogs with a lot of muzzle hair (such as Poodles & Schnauzers) seem prone to more oral health issues, possibly because the hair around the mouth harbors bacteria that migrate into the mouth.
Dogs and cats rarely get cavities. The main reason is the type of bacteria that live in their mouths is different than the bacteria in human mouths, and their bacteria does not secrete the acids that cause cavities.
How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth:
- Choose a time when you and your dog are both relaxed.
- Gently massage the outside of his mouth with your finger and then let him taste the toothpaste.
- Add a small amount of toothpaste on the brush, then brush the front of one or two teeth, including the gums, in a circular motion. Brush slowly and gently.
- Over several days, increase the number of teeth brushed each time. Brushing 30 seconds per side is recommended. It is important to brush the outside of the teeth (facing the cheek) because most plaque and tartar builds up there. Don’t forget to brush the back teeth.
- Always stop brushing before your dog starts getting irritated – you don’t want him to think his bad behaviour will get you to stop. Reward him with praise when the brushing is over. Cleaning teeth doesn’t have to be tough!