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It’s National Pet Dental Health Month! To address the importance oral health care for pets, February is recognized as a reminder to raise awareness that pet health also includes the mouth: healthy gums, teeth, and fresh breath. When was the last time you took your companion animal to get a dental exam and cleaning? How often do you check the inside of their mouth or brush their teeth at home?

Not brushing a pet’s teeth often does not make you a bad pet parent, it simply means you may be unaware of just how crucial oral pet care actual is. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, many cats and dogs will show signs of oral disease by the age of three, so beginning a dental care regiment early on in your pet’s life is highly recommended. Regardless of if you currently brush a pet’s teeth or simply could use some pointers, there are many natural ways to improve the dental health of your pets.

Bad breath is a precursor to other issues

First things first — do not ignore bad breath in your companions! Unusually bad dog or cat breath with a repulsive odor could be a sign of serious health issues that has the potential to be damaging far beyond a pet’s teeth, gums and mouth; internal organs can be at risk if the bloodstream becomes compromised with bacteria from a dental problem. Looking at your pet’s health holistically instead of at a single current issue may save him or her from unnecessary pain and even death.

Other signs of dental issues include:

  • Loose or discolored teeth
  • Teeth covered in tartar
  • Uncomfortable with you touching any part of their mouth
  • Drooling when attempting to eat
  • Dropping food from the mouth when trying to eat
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Loss of appetite or noticeable weight loss

Natural ways to improve pet dental health

  • Next to feeding your dog or cat specially formulated dry food that’s proven to help remove plaque and tarter from teeth, improving a pet’s dental health is not difficult (assuming a severe dental disease is not already present). Start by cleaning your pet’s teeth at home daily with a natural pet-safe or homemade toothpaste, which is an excellent way to keep a healthy pet mouth. Please note: Never use a toothpaste formulated for humans.
  • Feeding dog-safe fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs like carrots, cucumber, celery, apples, watermelon, cilantro, and parsley are fantastic to give as natural ways to clean teeth, stimulate gums and freshen breath. Slice fruits and vegetables up and give raw as a treat or dice and add to their meals, especially cilantro or parsley because they aid in refreshening bad dog breath.
  • Even though a cat’s diet requires animals protein, they sometimes do crave tasty veggies which are great for their overall oral health. Cat-safe vegetables, plain and in small portions, include broccoli, green beans, and cooked carrots.
  • Make homemade cat treats, dog treats and dog biscuits, and add cinnamon! Cinnamon is non-toxic to dogs and cats and helps to eliminate bad breath causing bacteria in the mouth. Hard dog biscuits also scrape along and under teeth to help clean away plaque and massage the gum-line.
  • Bad breath odor in dogs can be reduced or even eliminated by adding a couple of spoonfuls of organic virgin coconut oil to their food (also good for a healthy coat and skin, and helps with digestion). How? The lauric acid in coconut oil has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal properties that attack bad breath and gum disease causing bacteria.

While February is National Pet Dental Health Month, at-home dental health care should be a ritual for you and your pet at least a few days a week, if not daily. Your pets should have a routine veterinarian examination along with a thorough teeth and gums examination at least once a year, twice if they have chronic dental issues, as neglecting basic dental care can be detrimental to not only a pet’s mouth health, but their overall health as well.

Image source: The Visionary Agency / Flickr