snout-1444697_640Does Fido’s kiss make you think of a fish market? Scared to have Fluffy near your nose? If so, your pet may have bad teeth. Pets need regular dental check-ups just like us. February is pet dental month, so I thought we would talk a little about oral health.

Dental disease is a universal problem for all species. Our domesticated animals will suffer from dental disease without regular prophylaxis. Whenever our pets eat, food becomes lodged between their teeth and along the gum line. This will increase the amount of bacteria, tartar, and plaque that accumulates on their teeth and in their mouth. For this reason, without regular care, your beloved pet can have foul breath, gingivitis, and rotten teeth.

Well, that is the bad news. What is the good news? We can, of course, make the kisses smell better. The first step is at-home care. You must take care of your pet’s teeth. You do this just like you care for your teeth. There are several ways to do that.

The first way to prevent tartar build-up is by brushing your fur baby’s teeth. To do this, you must get them used to having their mouth handled. You simply start by rubbing their chin. Once they become comfortable with this, you will gently lift their lip. This will allow you to see the teeth and gums, and it will allow you to rub the teeth and gums with your finger. Also, don’t forget the most important step. You must praise them as you do all these steps.

Now that you can rub the teeth and gums, you will brush their teeth using a finger brush and pet toothpaste. I like the finger brush more than a traditional toothbrush because the pets seem more receptive to it. The pet toothpaste comes in a variety of flavors and is specifically made for our dogs and cats. Human toothpaste can make the fur babies very sick, so please do not use it at any time. Since you are now an expert at brushing teeth, we would love for you to brush their teeth once a day, but we will settle for twice a week.

Along the lines of a finger brush are medicated wipes. There are wipes that have an antibiotic in them that are specifically made for cleaning dog and cat teeth. You use the wipes exactly the same way as a finger brush. You will wipe along the pet’s teeth with the wipe. This is not as good as the finger brush, but it is very close second.

Chews and treats can also be used to minimize the tartar and plaque on the teeth. The treats that are specifically made for the teeth are the best to control the buildup of tartar and plaque. Sorry, the regular treats do nothing for the teeth. I personally like the foods that help control tartar and plaque on teeth. They are lower in calories and do a pretty good job keeping the teeth cleaner.

Hard bones, such as pork chop and ham bones are not a good idea. They can break teeth and are not good for the digestive system. Please avoid giving them to the fur babies. No matter which one you use, remember, we want them to have beautiful teeth but not in the process become obese.

Lastly, there are additives for the water and solutions you can rub on the teeth. These are made to simply reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth. They will not do anything for tartar and plaque on the teeth. I am not going to spend much time on them, because they simply do not work.

So what can be done once your pet has tartar and plaque on their teeth? They can have their teeth cleaned in the same way as you will. Your veterinarian can scale and polish the teeth. Since animals will not sit still during this, they will have to be sedated. It is a very light sedation, and in most cases, they are ready to go home in a couple of hours. This procedure may be done once in the animal’s life, or it may need to be done every 6 months. That needs to be determined by your regular veterinarian at their regular visits.

Dental health is very important for us and for our pets. We need to keep their mouth healthy and in turn, keep the rest of their body healthy. Talk to your veterinarian about any concerns you have about your pet’s oral health. Also, do not forget about at home: brushing, food, or treats. February is pet dental month, and now is a great time to get started on good oral care for your pets.