Periodontal disease, or tooth-and-gum disease, is one of the most common diseases affecting pets today. In fact, most dogs and cats show some signs of this disease by 3 years of age. Signs can include tender, swollen gums, excessive drooling, loss of appetite, and bad breath.
A complete dental exam should be performed on all pets at least once a year. For smaller breeds more prone to periodontal disease, these exams should be done every 6 months. If dental calculus is present at the gumline, the veterinarian should professionally clean the teeth.
Because this cleaning can be a painful procedure, especially if periodontal disease already exists, a short-acting sedative or anesthetic is essential for your pet’s comfort and safety.
An ultrasonic dental scaler, combined with manual scaling instruments, is used to break apart and remove the hard calculus and deposits from the tooth surfaces. Afterward, the teeth are polished with a special paste to restore their natural smooth surfaces.
Your pet’s dental care doesn’t stop there, though! At-home aftercare is a vital part of your pet’s dental health. Toothpaste, gels, and rinses formulated for use in pets are readily available from pet stores or from veterinary offices.
Choose one that contains chlorhexidine, as this antibacterial compound can remain effective for up to 12 hours after application. Human tooth paste should not be used, as it can cause stomach upset if swallowed by your pet.
Also, the much-advocated home formula mixing baking soda and salt in water can be effective as a toothpaste alternative, yet, because of the high sodium content of this mixture, it should not be used in older pets or in those pets suffering from heart ailments.
A regular, soft-bristled, human toothbrush can be used to apply the dental product. For cats, a child’s toothbrush can be substituted. However, for best result, purchase a special “finger” brush that fits on the end of your finger.
These can be purchased at any pet supply store. Apply the paste, gel, or solution to the brush, and proceed to brush as you would your own teeth, concentrating on the gumline as well as the outsides of the large premolars and canine teeth. No rinsing is necessary.
Remember: Good dental hygiene is important to the health of your pet. In fact, it can help it live a longer, happier life. If you have any questions concerning your pet’s dental health, don’t hesitate to confer with a veterinarian.