By Karin Krisher
“His mouth is cleaner than yours, so it’s totally cool to kiss him.” This oft-repeated phrase about dog dental health strikes fear in the hearts of some and make out-fueled love in the hearts of others. Regardless of your cardiac reaction, dental health isn’t a matter we can leave up to feeling.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month.
That’s right, there’s a whole month devoted to that slobbering, meowing, licking, chomping, snarling, smiling orifice. And rightly so—dental health is an area of your pet’s physiology that should never be ignored.
Periodontal disease is serious stuff. Not only does it make kissing your pup or kitty that much less appealing, it can also have serious adverse effects on bodily systems aside from the mouth. Caused by bacteria overgrowth, periodontal disease can ravage the gums and teeth and move on to the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and even the brain without proper attention.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of domesticated dogs and 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease by three years of age, meaning every single one of those pets (and the 20 and 30 percent that are lucky enough to avoid this fate) needs dental care of some sort.
So, without fine floss and flasks of fluoride, what are some great ways to keep your furry friends feeling fresh and fancy?
We can start with examining our own habits. First, we eat. Then, we brush. What happens when Fido eats? He licks his lips and takes a nap, letting the lovely grime of doggy food seep into his teeth and gums for hours at a time. Brushing and flossing your dog’s or cat’s teeth is the first step to maintaining dental health and one of the most important ways you can ensure general wellbeing.
Learning how to do this, and what will make your pets most comfortable during the process, can be a daunting task. We recommend talking to your vet about popular options, and getting the little guy’s first dental cleaning done by a professional. In fact, the American Animal Hospital Association has set out strict guidelines that detail what type of dental care our pets really need. The AAHA recommends annual (at least) veterinarian-performed oral examinations and dental cleanings, under general anesthesia. This guideline applies to all adult dogs and cats– starting at age one for cats and small-breed dogs, and at age two for large-breed dogs.
Other services, like analytical radiographs and sealant procedures, also come highly recommended. For at home care, as we mentioned, asking a vet is best. They’ll be able to tell you what flavors and ingredients might bother your pets, and which are sure to keep their tails wagging and their kisses coming.
Once you feel comfortable with the idea and process of brushing and flossing (maybe after watching a few (thousand) Youtube videos describing it), grab a brush that’s Tabby’s favorite color and have at it.
Your pet’s teeth, tongue, cheeks, lips, stomach, liver, heart, and brain will thank you.
And so will your nose.