Saturday, February 26, 2011

Brush Those Toofies!

Our Sadie's Pearly Whites

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. So many people don't realize the importance of dental health in animals. There are so many other factors that come into play besides bad breath. Dental disease can cause many illnesses in dogs like heart and kidney disease. As bacteria moves from the mouth, it travels to other vital organs in the body and causes damage. Most pet owners have no idea that dental disease may be the root cause of health problems in their pets. They take their pets to the vet and treat them for various aliments not realizing that the bacteria from their pets mouth is the culprit. Periodontal disease is harmful and painful. It causes tooth rot, abscesses, bad breath and swollen painful gums.

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When pet owners think of things that they can do to keep their beloved pets healthy they think of exercise, yearly shots, regular vet visits, grooming and nutritious food. They rarely (if at all) think of brushing their pets teeth. "Brush my dogs teeth -- WHAT? They don't need their teeth brushed. Their food and/or treats do that." Well that is not necessarily the case.

What if we didn't brush our teeth for let's say....a day, a week or our entire lives. Gross? Yes, very. If we don't brush our teeth then we start having bad breath. If we continue to not brush then that bacteria starts to travel through our bodies contaminating our organs and causing major health problems. It is the same with our pets. They too need their "toofies" brushed on a regular basis. Brushing every day is great. If you don't have time brush their teeth everyday then you can give them special treats like Greenies, Dentastix, Twistix, etc. They are great snacks that will help reduce plaque and tartar on your pets teeth. However, it does not take the place of regular brushing and dental cleanings at your vet.

Something very important to remember -- you can't use human toothpaste on your dog.  Human toothpaste contains harmful ingredients to animals, is not edible and can't be swallowed. Your dog will most definitely swallow whatever you use to clean his/her teeth. You can purchase specific toothpaste just for your pet that is edible. Pet Toothpaste comes in many different flavors. Try to find one that your dog likes; your dog will be more likely to let you brush his/her teeth. A nice beef or chicken brushing will be a tasty treat for your dog.

If you haven't brushed your dogs teeth before it will be a little awkward for the both of you. To start, try putting a little dab of toothpaste on the tip of your finger and let your dog sniff and lick it. The yummy taste should entice your dog enough to let you stick your finger in its mouth. In the beginning, you may want to use your (freshly washed) finger to brush your dog's teeth. Just put a little bit of pet toothpaste on your finger or a fresh piece of gauze, lift their gums in the area your are working in and rub your fingers over your dog's teeth. Make sure that you touch every tooth (front side of the tooth). Pay special attention to the molars and premolars (side and back teeth). These teeth usually build up tartar and plaque faster than the other teeth. Once your dog is comfortable with the process then you can start introducing a pet toothbrush. They come is different sizes and shapes, so find the one that works best for your pet. Smaller pets will need smaller brushes since they have small mouths. If your dog or cat won't let you use a toothbrush then you can use a dental wipe product like this. It is better to use an alternative method like fresh gauze or wipes than to not brush their teeth at all. You have to find what works best for you and your pet.

Still unsure about how to brush your pet's teeth or know if you are doing it right. Here is a great video to watch on how to brush your pet's teeth....

You will need to make sure this is an enjoyable experience for your pet. A pet won't be as reluctant to allow you to brush their teeth if you make it fun. Make sure you praise your pet during the process. You can even start out by giving your pet their favorite treat. Let them know that they are a "good boy or girl" and pet/stroke them during the process. Afterward, you can give them lots of reassurance by praise, kisses or a good pet massage. This will help them associate the activity in a positive manner. :-)

Most people also think that because they take their pet to get their teeth cleaned at their vets office that they don't need to brush their teeth daily. This couldn't be further from the truth. Tartar and plaque build up starts immediately after the cleaning. You also endanger your pet's life every time they are put under anesthesia. Some pet's, like two of my own, can no longer go under anesthesia because other health problems put them at too big a risk. Regular brushing will also reduce the amount of vet dental cleanings your pet will need. The more you keep the tartar and plague off their teeth the less build up will occur. This is why brushing your pet's teeth is so important.

Let's be honest - most of us don't brush our pets teeth on a regular basis (if at all). We either don't have or make the time to do it or don't realize the importance of it. I have been guilty of this in the past as well. Life gets busy. You come home from work tired, have to make dinner and take care of your family. Some days you are lucky if you can take your dog for a walk. Believe me, I know. However, each day is a new chance to make changes -- important changes for you and your pet. Start a new ritual of brushing your pet's teeth at bedtime. Start getting ready for bed a few minutes early and brush their teeth right before or after yours. The most important thing is to find what works best for you and stick with it. We all want our beloved pets to live longer, healthier lives and brushing their teeth will help tremendously with that. To some like me, your pets are your children (fur babies) and to others valued members of your family. So let's treat them like such and keep those pearly whites -- white. :-)

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Keisha said...

That's good advice. I get sparkly biskits that help cleen my teef. I hope my humans will get me a nice toofbrush and some pet toofpase, too! :)

houndstooth said...

Did you know that Greenies is doing a campaign this month where they'll donate $25 to a group that helps with dental care for homeless pets and for those who can't afford them? We did a post about it on Thursday. I love all the great info you included in your post!

Benny and Lily said...

Okay we will brush, thanks for reminding momma
Benny & Lily

Chicco said...

Hello! oh yes this advise is very important for us. I will brush my teeth soon....
Happy sunday.


Pup Fan said...

Great advice - really informative post!

Tweedles -- that's me said...

Awsome post!!

Brushy, brushy those toofies!

Anonymous said...

Really good information on your blog. Mama's getting me some greenies tommorrow!

By the way, I've given you an award. Please stop by my blog and pick it up.