It’s never too early to start thinking about what can be done at home to prevent dental disease in your dog or cat. When it comes to home care products, it is important that they are easy to administer, safe, effective and taste good to your pet. There are many choices out there and a consultation with your veterinarian can direct you to the most effective home care solutions.
To catch problems before they become bigger problems, physical exams, including complete dental exams, should be performed every 6 months to a year. At each of these visits, take the time to learn about solutions that will aid you in providing the best oral health care for your pet.
Oral health care at home begins with brushing your pet’s teeth. This is the best way to maintain oral hygiene between dental cleanings in dogs and cats. This should be done daily for best results, but can still be beneficial if done less frequently. Human toothpaste is not recommended because it has been known to cause gastric upset in pets and there are ingredients that should not be swallowed by dogs or cats. In addition, you will quickly find out that human toothpastes don’t taste good to dogs and cats. It may be intimidating to brush your cat or dog’s teeth, but it is easier than you think and there are many video tutorials available online. And the more you do it, the easier it gets!
Brushing may not be a realistic option for every pet. In this scenario, dental treats or chews offer an alternative or compliment to home care prevention. There is a wide range of treats and chews available and it is recommended to find products with ingredients sourced from the US. Chews and treats provide natural abrading action to help remove plaque and food debris. The two most common types of chews on the market are enzymatic chews and chlorhexidine chews. Enzymatic chews are enzymatically treated to help boost the pets’ own natural defenses (similar to enzymatic toothpaste) found in saliva and are offered in multiple sizes to accommodate the size of your pet, including cats. The chlorhexidine products contain chlorhexidine (has antimicrobial effects) which inhibits plaque accumulation on tooth surfaces, decreases the quantity of bacteria in saliva, alters the composition of microbial flora, binds to oral mucosal surfaces and is released slowly over time. As with the enzymatic chews, these chews come in multiple sizes to accommodate all dogs. Delmopinol, a prescription ingredient, is a newer ingredient in some chews that forms a preventative barrier that blocks the formation of bacteria and future formation plaque and calculus. In following the American Veterinary Dermatology College, it is not recommend to give dogs and cats cow hooves, dried natural bones, or hard nylon products because they are too hard and could damage the gums or teeth.
Rinses are available for those patients that don’t like to chew or don’t find chews palatable, have food allergies, don’t need the extra calories, or are too difficult for their owners to successfully brush their teeth. Rinses can also be added to the other home care options to improve the overall results. Rinses are often used during oral surgery and dental cleanings. Most contain 0.12% chlorhexidine with zinc, and have a pleasant taste for pets due to added breath fresheners that cover up the bitter taste of chlorhexidine. Rinses are highly effective antimicrobial, anti-plaque and anti-calculus products that aid in the prevention of tooth and gum disease. In addition they can help with bad breath!
Other products that may be incorporated into your home care plan can include sealants, and prescription dental diets. Sealants and gels provide a physical barrier and are applied to the gum line. They prevent bacteria from invading the underlying structures of the gum. They are also used to prevent plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth. Dental diets are another option and they typically have a unique kibble size that helps remove plaque that can cause disease of the underlying structures of the gums. These can be life-long diets and work daily to clean the surface of the tooth with abrasive action.
If you have questions about the oral healthcare of your pet and want to know more about what you can do, ask your veterinarian today!