February was Pet Dental Care month. We missed it by a month, but it is not too late to begin.
It may seem rather strange to be brushing our pet's teeth. After all, they have survived for centuries without anyone paying attention to their teeth. However, in the wild, dogs and cats ate small animals, skin, bones and all. This gives their teeth a workout. In our modern world, we take the chase and the challenge out of eating by providing a ready-to-eat diet.
Dogs and cats are living longer with better nutrition and better vet care. We want their teeth to last as long as they do.
Good, dry kibble really helps keep cat and dog teeth pretty clean and the gums stimulated. Canned and pre-moistened foods do nothing for teeth health. Good, hard dog biscuits do help and raw carrots are great and healthy.
Even when we provide the very best of diets, our dogs and cats eat pretty disgusting things at every opportunity.
Just as we have bacteria growing in our mouths, so do our pets. The bacteria is swallowed and moves into the pet's system. Studies have proved that many diseases in the organs originate from bacteria growing in the mouth.
Dogs should not have bad breath. It may not be the best, but it should not be foul. If it is, it is generally the sign of a health problem and should be checked out by a veterinarian.
Brushing our pet's teeth is easy. It is getting into the habit of doing it that is difficult.
We should at least be brushing their teeth once a week, but once a day is best.
They may not be crazy about it at first so we need to take it slow. Begin by rubbing your finger along the gum line and massage it a bit. Then, after they accept that, introduce the toothbrush.
The same rules apply to teeth brushing as to grooming and nail clipping. Insist that they behave and stand still.
To begin with, you may spend just a minute or two, increasing the time as they get used to it. And, talk constantly in a soothing voice telling them how wonderful they are and how good this is for them.
There are special pet toothbrushes of various sizes and designs. A small round head works best and people toothbrushes are OK but the bristles should be soft. A gauze pad or one of those rubber things that fit over your finger work also.
You can use just plain water, a pet toothpaste or an antibacterial oral rinsing solution, which is what I use, is available through veterinarians. Never use people toothpaste as it contains ingredients which dogs and cats do not tolerate.
Some choose to leave teeth cleaning to the vet. The vet will check your pet's teeth when you take him in for his annual checkup and shots. The more you work with the teeth and gums of your dog or cat, the better condition the teeth and gums will be in, and also, when the vet does need to work in the pet's mouth, it will not be so traumatic for him.
Often a dog or cat has to be anesthetized for the vet to do any work in his mouth. If you clean the pet's teeth regularly, he gets used to it and the vet can do what he needs to do without stress. Also, the more you do, the less the vet has to do.
Once they get used to it, dogs generally like getting their teeth cleaned. Cats may be a bit more of a challenge. One thing is certain, he will like the undivided attention. And you will be delighted when on the annual visit to the vet, you hear him say, "His teeth look great. Keep up the good work."
Christy Wrather is a columnist for the Payson Roundup. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail-mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.