This is pet dental month in Canada, so I figured it would be a good opportunity to talk about one of my all-time favourite subjects – TEETH!
As I was reminding my 9 yr old son this morning to brush, brush, brush, because I could actually SEE the plaque on his teeth, I looked at my dog Bruce’s fuzzy face and felt the guilt.
I am the first to admit it; I simply don’t get around to brushing my dog’s or cats’ teeth. Yes, I recommend to my clients every single day, multiple times throughout the day, that they should be brushing their pets’ teeth… and here I am, not doing what I advocate.
I am, however, a realist, and know that there are just so many hours in a day. With 3 kids, a house that needs ‘some’ upkeep and working more than 40hrs a week, I simply don’t get to brushing the dog’s or cats’ teeth. The difference between me and many of my clients is that I know what this lack of attention to their teeth means and I am prepared to deal with the repercussions. Because I don’t brush as I should, I need to use special veterinary dental diets, give them dental chews AND have their teeth cleaned and polished regularly. Luckily, none of my pets have serious dental or gum disease, so I only need to have their teeth cleaned every few years. If I brushed their teeth, I might get away with only needing a cleaning once in their life-time or perhaps none at all.
So don’t follow my lead. Brush your dog’s and cat’s teeth as often as you can!
Daily, twice a week, whatever you can do. Pair it with some activity you do on a routine basis. I met a nice young mother the other day with her 2 little dogs. She also has a 3 year old son and a 1 year old little girl. When I asked her how she kept her dogs’ teeth so shiny and white (and healthy!), she answered: “I brush their teeth”. Well, I think I almost fell over and I’m sure she saw my jaw drop. How could she have time? Well, she keeps her dogs’ tooth brushes and toothpaste next to her son’s and when they go to brush his teeth at night, they finish off the evening with brushing the dogs’ teeth. Her son finds it super fun and the dogs love it too (likely because the toothpaste is chicken flavoured…).
Keeping your pet’s teeth and mouth healthy has more benefits than simply good breath; it has overall health benefits for your pet.
We brush and floss and go to the dentist every 6-12months for cleanings. Why? Because we know that poor oral health can lead to problems with your heart, kidneys, etc. The same goes for our pets.
Cats and dogs get tartar build up as fast as we do but theirs becomes calcified twice as fast as a person’s does.
Tarter, and especially calcified tartar, does not come off with simple brushing. It needs to be scaled. This is why your vet will likely speak with you about having your pet’s teeth scaled and polished more often than you expect. And as you probably already know, cats and dogs need to be anesthetized for dental procedures (even scaling) under the direct care of a veterinarian. In fact, it is illegal in Quebec and across most of Canada for anyone other than a veterinarian or veterinary technician (under the direct supervision of a veterinarian) to scale a dog’s or cat’s teeth. Groomers can brush your dog’s teeth, but no surgical or dental instruments are legally allowed to be in your animal’s mouth by anyone other than a veterinary professional. There are numerous reasons for this regulation. After personally having seen many serious issues arise after awake-animal teeth cleanings performed by non-veterinary professionals, I can assure you, the regulation is primarily there to benefit your pet’s health.
Take it from me – looking after your pet’s teeth is worth it!
Don’t wait until your cat needs all of his teeth removed before doing something about it. There are options and your vet is there to support you and help you find ways to prevent dental disease in your furry family members’ mouths.