You may not think much about your pet’s teeth, unless they sink in when you pet your cat in the wrong spot or play too rough with your pup. That oral bacteria lurking in your pet’s mouth can cause you and your furry pal a world of hurt, so much so that a cat bite can put you in the hospital. If you need intravenous antibiotics because of the bacteria from a pet’s bite, what are the bacteria doing to your pet’s mouth and body? 

Left unchecked to attack your pet’s body, oral bacteria can cause painful tooth abscesses, oronasal fistulas, jaw fractures, systemic infection, and organ damage—so much harm, in fact, that you need to take action now. You can improve your pet’s oral health with the following methods.

#1: Choose dental health products that are officially proven

If you toss your pooch a dental chew every day as you walk out the door, or scatter a handful of crunchy treats for your cat to devour, you may think you’ve got their oral health covered. However, not all dental health products are equal in terms of efficacy. To ensure you choose a product with proven ability to slow plaque and tartar accumulation, look at the approved product list created by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). Products on this list have been rigorously tested to ensure they can effectively battle dental disease, which makes them the best option for preserving your pet’s oral health.

#2: Ditch dangerous chew toys

Is your dog’s favorite chew toy the giant stick they found in the backyard? Perhaps they spend hours gnawing on a deer antler without making any progress. While these chew toys may be your pet’s go-to for exercising their jaws, they can cause a great deal of damage. Sticks can splinter and stab your pet’s mouth or lodge in their gastrointestinal tract, while antlers often fracture the large premolars. 

Give your pet better chewing options by offering toys that pass the knee test. Hit your knee with a chew toy—the toy is too hard if you develop a bruise. Also, if your fingernail cannot dent the toy, it is too tough for your pet’s teeth. Safe options generally include rubber Kong toys, Goughnuts toys with the safety indicator, and approved dental chews.

#3: Brush up on identifying dental disease signs in your pet

Knowing how to spot early dental disease in your pet can save them from untold pain and infection, and your bank account from a hefty deduction for multiple tooth extractions. Common dental disease signs in pets include:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Yellow or brown tartar buildup
  • Broken, loose, or missing teeth
  • Refusing to eat dry food or crunchy treats
  • Reluctance to play with toys 
  • Avoiding the food bowl
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Dropping food while eating
  • A lump under the eye
  • Irritation when petted around the chin or head

Check your pet’s mouth regularly for dental disease signs to spot problems early, so they can be treated as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary pain.

#4: Combat plaque buildup with daily toothbrushing

Plaque is the bacteria-laden substance that leaves your teeth with a fuzzy feeling in the morning. Bacteria that combine with saliva, food particles, and proteins in your pet’s mouth congeal into sticky plaque in 24 hours, and then turn into rock-solid dental calculus, or tartar. While tartar can irritate the gingiva, plaque does the real dirty work, infiltrating the space between the gums and teeth, spreading infection throughout the periodontal structures, and slipping into the bloodstream.

Quickly scrubbing your pet’s teeth every day can greatly reduce plaque buildup. If your pet will not tolerate a toothbrush in their mouth, they may allow your finger wrapped in a moistened gauze square or dental wipe. The gauze’s slight abrasive action will brush away oral bacteria before they can take hold.

#5: Join forces with your veterinarian in preserving your pet’s oral health

Taking care of your pet’s teeth every day at home is an excellent way to promote good oral health, but toothbrushing can only do so much. As much as 60% of the tooth structure lies below the gum line where a toothbrush cannot reach, and scaling, which is one component of a  professional dental cleaning, is needed to remove the plaque that accumulates in that space. During a dental cleaning, our veterinarian also evaluates your pet’s oral cavity, checking for any periodontal problems, and takes full-mouth dental X-rays to check below the gum line for hidden disease, such as fractured teeth, root abscesses, or bone loss. After we perform a comprehensive exam, we proceed with scaling and polishing the teeth. We often extract diseased or damaged teeth, to make the pet much more comfortable upon recovery. Regular dental cleanings can help prevent periodontal disease that becomes severe enough to require tooth extractions. 

If your pet is clearing the room with their bad breath, they are due for a professional dental examination and cleaning to restore their oral health. Contact our Southwest Vet team to schedule a dental cleaning for your furry pal.