The best way to deal with our pet’s health problems is to prevent them from happening altogether.Dr. Judy Morgan
Dental health is a large problem for many dogs and cats that not only causes daily discomfort and irritation (which can lead to stress, behavioral problems or worse) but can lead to larger issues. Luckily, these problems are 100% preventable.
Food particles and bacteria frequently collect around the gum-line of cats and dogs. This build-up forms into plaque, which can be removed with routine home dental care; however, with time and no dental care, this plaque turns to tartar. Tartar adheres strongly to teeth causing irritation and pain that can eventually lead to gingivitis (inflammation and redness of the gums) if left untreated. It also causes bad breath, which is sometimes the easiest way to tell that your pet has a problem. At this point a professional cleaning is necessary using special equipment and polish.
If action is not taken to remove tartar, it begins to build up under the gums and create pockets that encourage even more bacteria growth. This is called periodontal disease and it is irreversible. It can lead to the loss of teeth, bone loss, abscesses and infection. It also has more serious implications if bacteria continue to grow and enters the bloodstream. This can cause infections in major organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart valves.
The AVMA estimates about 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease by age two. Starting early with preventative measures will help impede the progression of dental disease. Daily brushing to remove plaque and tartar is ideal.
For pets that hate having their teeth brushed there are a few alternatives. Cats can be given raw or steamed chicken gizzards, which contain a tough layer of koilin. This natural toothbrush will help scrape plaque and tartar off your cat’s teeth as he or she chews the gizzards. For dogs, raw meaty bones like beef marrow bones that are sold at the grocery store can help scrape tartar off teeth while entertaining your dog. Discard bones after one use as old bones dry out and become brittle. Make sure you always watch your dog while he chews and never give any pet cooked bones, as these can splinter and cause injury.
Despite common belief, there is no evidence that dry food, kibble, or hard crunchy treats (even those labeled as dental food or treats) actually do anything to help prevent the buildup of tartar. Many pets don’t chew kibbles, but rather swallow them whole. Even when they do chew dry food and treats, pieces can get stuck between teeth causing more tartar to cling to teeth and gums.
Similarly, most dry foods and crunchy treats contain wheat, corn, or other sugars that may not only contribute to further periodontal disease, but many other health issues as well. Many over-the-counter dental chew products contain artificial preservatives, chemicals, and dyes that have been shown to be carcinogenic.
Everyone knows how it feels to go a few days without brushing your teeth. It feels gritty, disgusting and generally uncomfortable. Now imagine going months or even years without it! Our dogs and cats are sensitive to how they feel and it effects their mood, happiness and health just as much as it would ours. Proper dental care is imperative to the well being of an animal.