I’m a bit obsessive about brushing my own teeth, but I can’t seem to do it for any of our dogs… not even the ridiculously pampered Yorkshire Terrier Little Caesar!
I’m sharing this with you because I want you to know that you’re not alone if you sometimes forget that your pampered pet has teeth.
This month, the Whole Dog Journal (an excellent publication I might add) has a terrifically detailed article about what it takes to brush your dog’s teeth.
I can save you two pages of reading and get right to the point… it takes patience, a reminder on your calendar to do it at least every other day, water, and a soft kid’s toothbrush.
But what if, like us, you have a flock of furry friends to take care of? That’s where the tooth brushing thing tends to break down. With our crazy busy schedule, it’s all we can do to get a HEARTGARD and FRONTLINE to everyone, and nails trimmed!
But even if brushing is not a realistic goal for your family, that doesn’t mean you should subscribe to the “ignorance is bliss” mentality when it comes to your pet’s teeth.
If you don’t remember anything else from this month’s newsletter, please remember this….dental health is just as important to your pet’s overall health and happiness as it is to ours. Dental disease is not only painful – it can “seed” heart, kidney and liver disease.
So what’s a responsible pet parent to do?Here are Dr. Todd’s tips for dental health:Flip the Lip: You should get in the habit of “flipping the lip” at least monthly to monitor your pet’s oral health. The truth is that brushing can extend the time between professional cleanings, but it won’t eliminate the need for us to clean your pet’s teeth every year or two—-best case. Little Caesar actually gets two dental cleanings each year. Small breed dogs like Yorkies, Pomeranians, Pugs, and Chihuahuas have notoriously bad teeth – so we should really be examining their teeth twice a year.
Start by lifting the upper lip. Clean, white, unbroken teeth and nice pink gums are what you want to see. The breath should be bearable, not toxic. It’s hardest to see the teeth furthest back, but if your pet will tolerate it, try to peek at the teeth farthest in the back of the mouth. Lift the lips on both sides, checking upper and lower teeth. This may be easier to do with a helper.
During this exam, be on the lookout for cracked or broken teeth, brown teeth, teeth caked with tartar, red or inflamed gums, brown or black spots on the gums, and any unusual tissue growth. If you see any of these problems during your pet’s home dental examine, head in to see your friends at Noah’s.
A word of CAUTION: Feline teeth are best left to us to examine- cat bites are really nasty. In a recent study of 193 cat bites to humans done at the Mayo Clinic, only 3 did not require medical attention. There’s a very high risk of infection from a cat bite— so leave those cat mouths to us!
Don’t wait for trouble: Horrible breath, loss of weight, heavy plaque build up, teeth that are loose— these are all signs of periodontal disease. During your pet’s yearly physical exams we’ll examine your pet’s mouth and intervene to prevent tooth loss and disease.
Prevent Pain: Dogs and cats are generally quite stoic, and don’t show pain until disease is quite advanced…but make no mistake, broken teeth and gum disease are just as painful in our pampered pets as it is for us. It’s very common to see pets act years younger after a dental cleaning and extraction of diseased teeth. After treating dental disease pets feel much, much better.
Feed a high quality diet: Low cost commercial diets and treats have added sugar. Sugar wreaks the same havoc on pet teeth as ours. Dry food crumbles, mixes with saliva and can stick at the gum line, contributing to periodontal disease. We recommend fresh marrow bones* to help keep teeth healthy between cleanings. Pets eating a raw diet, for a number of reasons, are less prone to dental disease. (*We have fresh bison bones and high quality raw (thaw & serve) diets available at Noah’s Ark.)
Maintain teeth between cleanings: We have water additives and solutions to help slow plaque progression. If your pets will allow it, brush teeth daily. Click for detailed instructions for canines and felines.
Don’t neglect your cats: We’ve described in earlier newsletters why it’s healthier to feed fresh or canned food to cats. If you feed your cats a dry feline diet, expect them to need professional dental cleaning each year. Keep reading to learn more about dental issues specific to felines.
We do our best to keep dental cleaning very affordable because it’s such an important part of overall health. At this year’s Health Fair, we’ll be rolling out new and improved Wellness Plans. Our GOLD plans spread all your preventative veterinary care AND a dental cleaning (with bloodwork) into a low monthly payment of just $39.95. Be sure to stop by Noah’s on February 22nd to learn more!