Pets Deserve Pearly Whites

FOCUS ON PETS

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Brushing our dog's teeth is something that most of us know we should do, but most often just do not get around to doing.

Just like with people, some dogs go through their entire lives with nice shiny white teeth and no problems. Others are plagued with bad teeth from early on.

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Brushing your dog's teeth is extremely important. Sheila Converse talks encouragingly, as she works her fingers around and in Lacy's mouth. Slowly begin massaging the teeth and gums.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 80 percent of dogs develop gum disease by the age of three years. Untreated dental problems can lead to systemic infection and even serious heart disease and other ailments of the organs. Oral bacteria, in both humans and animals, enters the bloodstream through the blood vessels in the gums. Many chronic, and seemingly unrelated, health problems are due to periodontal disease, according to a recent article in The Whole Dog Journal.

So, we need to be brushing our dog's teeth. How to start?

Sit on the floor with your dog when you are watching the nightly news. A small dog can sit on your lap. At the very beginning, get your dog accustomed to having your fingers near and then in his mouth. Talk encouragingly to him, telling him how important this is for his overall health and well-being and that he is just a super guy. Move your finger over the teeth until he is comfortable. A damp piece of gauze or a washcloth can be introduced slowly. When he is doing well, do not do this all in one sitting.

Introduce the toothbrush. You can use a people toothbrush as long as it is very soft and has a compact head. However, you must never use people toothpaste, even that designed for babies. According to Nancy Kerns, author of the magazine article, most people toothpaste contains xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. It is not necessary to use any paste at all, but lots of great-flavored pet toothpastes are available.

Whether you use your finger, gauze or a brush, make sure it is wet.

When first introducing the toothbrush, put something wonderful tasting on it. Just let him sniff it and lick off what is there. Convince him that this will not hurt. Also reward him with lavish praise and good treats when the process is over.

Keep the sessions very brief at first. When you achieve a tiny bit of acceptance, quit for the day, treat and praise.

Electric toothbrushes are available for dogs and cats. Once they get accustomed to the sound and the vibration, which you should introduce slowly, they do not mind at all. I have used the electric toothbrush for a long time. It really works to get rid of tartar and keep the gums in good condition.

Once the dog allows the brush in his mouth, the work begins. Use a circular motion, working upward toward the gums. Make it quick, especially at first. If he fights you, keep going until he complies and then quit immediately. Get to those back teeth and work on both the inside and outside.

The best plan is to set a regular time for tooth brushing and stick with it. At first it might be every Sunday evening or some such. If you can make it part of the daily routine, all the better. Follow it with a play session.

Working with your dog's teeth is important for many reasons. You will be the first to notice any irregularities, such as cracked or broken teeth, any sign of infection or bad breath. These should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

Most dogs require a professional dental cleaning every so often. The more comfortable your dog is with having his teeth worked on by you, the more willing he will be to have the vet examine his mouth. Our efforts help to minimize or eliminate the need for professional cleaning. Generally, the veterinarian will anesthetize your dog before working on his teeth. The more time you spend cleaning your dog's teeth, the less often he will have to undergo this experience.

Incidentally, your pet's diet has a lot to do with the condition of his teeth. Hard kibble is great for helping keep the teeth strong and eliminate tartar buildup.

Avoid foods with sugar, artificial coloring and flavoring. A total diet of canned or soft food can be disastrous for the teeth.

Some feel that feeding a raw diet, which consists of bones, vegetables and raw meat, keeps the teeth healthy and clean. Chewing on safe bones and other hard toys promotes clean teeth and healthy gums.

Get out the toothbrush and begin. It is easier than you might think. Your dog and cat will love the time you spend with them. Remember the encouraging words and healthy treats.

Dangers of standing water

With all the rain, which is most welcome, comes standing water. Standing water attracts mosquitoes and encourages their multiplication. They can carry diseases such as West Nile Virus. Standing water also develops algae and organisms. They can be harmful to our pets.

Do not let your pet drink or splash in standing water, particularly if it is green around the edges. If your dog gets into some foul water, wash him off well.

-- Christy Powers can be reached by e-mail at cpwrather@earthlink.net or by snail mail at HC1 Box 210, Strawberry, AZ 85544.

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