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Doggy and kitty dental care is one of those essential pet care concerns that tend to fall under the radar. We know choosing a healthy food is important, we exercise our pets, take them to their annual vet check-up, brush them and more. What many forget to do, however, is set up a dental care routine for their furry friend. Pet dental problems can actually lead to life-threatening infections and cause issues such as heart, liver, or kidney disease.

There are chew toys and other items that claim to help clean a dog’s teeth, but a good, old-fashioned tooth brushing may save you from crazy vet bills down the line. Here are some of the tips, tricks, and habits you should start to keep your pet’s mouth clean and happy!

How to Tell Your Pet Has a Dental Issue

It is important to regularly check your pets mouth for signs of any issues. If you are brushing their teeth regularly, this won’t be an issue. If you find it is difficult to brush, make it a priority to check your pets gums and teeth at least once a week. According to the ASPCA, you should make an appointment at the vet if you see any of the following irregularities in your cat or dog’s mouth

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Inflamed gums
  • Tumors in the gums
  • Cysts under the tongue
  • Loose teeth

These symptoms can be a sign your pet is in need of a professional dental cleaning or a sign that something else is going on in their mouth. Animals can suffer from many of the same dental issues and diseases that people do. Gingivitis, periodontal disease, halitosis, swollen gums and mouth tumors are all regularly seen in cats and dogs. If you leave your pet’s tooth or gum issues alone for too long you risk the chance of toxin absorption into the blood stream. These toxins and bacteria may enter the body through the blood stream via the oral lesions. This is what causes heart and kidney problems in some pets.

So now that you know the signs, let’s learn how you can take care of those pearly whites!

Kitty Teeth Routine

Though you wouldn’t guess it, it is important to take care of – not only your dog’s teeth – but your cat’s teeth as well. If you are up for the challenge, you can slowly introduce tooth brushing into your cat’s regular routine. The ASPCA recommends starting with cotton swabs.

Gently rub your cat’s teeth and gums with the cotton swabs a little at a time. Make the experience positive, don’t push your cat if they are unhappy. After they get used to the cotton swab, introduce a cat toothbrush. These are smaller than your average toothbrush and have softer bristles. There are special toothpastes formulated for cats and it is important to use these as human toothpaste can be poisonous for your feline friend.

If brushing teeth is too much for your kitty, be sure to regularly check their teeth. Red swollen gums, loose teeth, stinky breath, and difficulty chewing should all be taken up with your vet. These are signs of gum disease or other problems. Feeding your cat dry food will help keep their teeth pearly white as well – wet food and treats will add tartar to their teeth much faster.

Doggy Teeth Tips

You may have more success with the actual tooth brushing aspect of pet dental care with your dog than you do with your cat. This is an important part of being a good doggy parent and will definitely save you money on vet bills down the line.

First step is to get your pooch used to toothbrushing. Try and choose a time soon after your pup has had exercise. They’ll be much more inclined to sit still for you. Start with a cotton swab and then, after time, introduce a toothbrush. You can use either a soft-bristled person toothbrush or one from a pet store. They even make brushes that go on your finger, if that works better for you and your dog.

Luckily, most doggy toothpastes taste awesome to your pup, so they won’t shy away from at least licking at the toothbrush. Brush gently from the back molars up to the front of the mouth. You don’t need to worry about brushing the inside of the teeth, though. Minimal tartar will build up here. In fact, the primary buildup will be found where the cheek touches the teeth. You should be aiming to brush your pup’s teeth two to three times a week, once a week minimum.

There are other items you can use to aid in your tooth care efforts. Doggy dental gel can help break down the plaque and tartar build up that has already accumulated. There are dental wipes you can use as well if you don’t have time to brush as often as you’d like. These wipes get rid of any lingering bacteria to prevent more plaque build up. Chew toys are an important part of your dog’s natural way to keep their teeth clean, too. Their natural urge to chew helps scrap plaque off as well as prevent further build up.

Extra Care at Check Up

Even with regular brushing, your pet is bound to have some plaque and tartar build up. During their yearly check up, vets will check your pet’s mouth for signs of any issues and to see how their teeth look. The may recommend a professional cleaning. To do this, pets are typically sedated with general anesthesia and the built up plaque is removed. This will often help relieve swollen gums or problems like gingivitis. It will also help your best buddy keep their teeth well into their old age. If any of your pet’s teeth are beyond saving, vets will remove these during this dental procedure.

Healthy teeth will not only save you bunches of money on vet bills over the course of your best friend’s life, but it will keep them healthier and, thus, much happier. Plus, who doesn’t love coming home to those big, pearly white, smiles every day!

Lead image source: Shigemi.J/Flickr