6 questions we're asked about dog or cat dental care. (Yes, you can brush your pet's teeth!)
Brush and floss twice per day. See the dentist once per year. Try not to eat too many sticky, sweet snacks. Taking care of our own teeth is a part of our daily lives, but when was the last time you checked your pet's teeth?
How common is dental disease in dogs and cats?
Dental care for dogs and cats often gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list and as a result, 80% of pets older than three have some kind of dental disease. Common feline concerns include gingivitis, tooth resorption, and stomatitis. Tooth and mouth issues can be very painful for our pets and can affect internal organs, such as the kidney, liver, and heart, if left untreated. The bottom line? It's worth speaking to your veterinarian about a plan to prevent and/or treat the progress of your pet's dental disease.
My pet has bad breath. Should I be concerned?
Stinky breath keeping you from cuddling with your four-legged friend? It might be time for a check-up! Your cat or dog's bad breath (known medically as halitosis) is one of the most common signs of early periodontal disease, with a buildup of bacteria as the culprit. Let your vet know about your pet's less-than-pleasant breath; they'll give their chompers a look and provide recommendations.
What else should I watch out for?
Firstly, if your pet is acting irritable or out of character, it's a red flag that something is up—take them to the vet to determine any underlying issues. More physical signs of dental disease include excessive drooling, dropping food when eating, bleeding from the gums, swelling on the muzzle/face, and reduced appetite. Some pets might be particularly vocal to indicate they're in pain, howling or meowing excessively to tell you something is wrong.
Should my pet have their teeth professionally cleaned?
Yep! Animals develop plaque and tartar on their teeth, just like humans. Regular professional cleanings under anesthesia can identify any problems and keep your best friend's teeth and gums in tip-top condition. Additionally, most of the tooth is beneath the gum line, so a veterinarian will use a full-mouth radiograph under anesthesia helps evaluate their condition. Every pet has different needs, but small breeds of dogs typically require a full anesthetic dental appointment yearly, whereas bigger dogs may only need them every couple of years.
Does pet insurance cover dental cleanings?
Dental treatments aren't cheap and unfortunately, this results in some pet parents delaying or forgoing care that their dog or cat really needs. Pet dental insurance can soften the financial blow, but every insurance plan is different. For example, some plans will only cover dental accidents (damaged teeth or oral injuries) and not dental illness (dental disease).
Pet insurance companies that cover both accidents and illness include ASPCA, Embrace, Petplan, Pumpkin, Trupanion, and TrustedPals. Keep in mind that routine dental cleanings are frequently excluded unless you have a pet insurance wellness plan.
What are some tips for keeping my pet's teeth healthy at home?
Preventative care is the most effective (and affordable!) way to keep your four-legged friend happy and comfortable. Yes, you can brush your pet's teeth! It might take a little bit of practice, but brushing daily can vastly slow the progression of dental disease. Just make sure you're using a pet toothbrush that's shaped for feline or canine teeth and avoid human toothpaste, as it contains products that are harmful to animals. Pet-safe toothpaste is available at pet stores with scrumptious flavors like chicken or tuna.
There are a multitude of products on the market that say they'll keep your pet's teeth healthy, but not all of these claims are based on veterinary research. The Veterinary Oral Health Council provides a list of products, including foods, water additives, and treats, that are safe and have proven benefits.
Oral health is an integral part of your cat or dog's overall wellness. Regular vet visits include a dental examination to flag early signs of periodontal disease before it becomes a more serious problem for your pet and you.
The information in this blog is reviewed and approved by the Fear Free Certified veterinarians at Papaya Pet Care.