Anyone who has, themself, survived dental work quickly understands why we want our pets to have good oral health.
Anyone who has cringed from furry affection because of Dog Breath quickly understands why we want our pets to have good oral health.
Just like us humans, any dog or cat can develop periodontal disease. Like us humans, some are more susceptible than others. And also like humans, there is a lot that can be done to both prevent and mitigate it before professional intervention (and a large charge on your credit card) is involved.
When your pup or kitty has her annual well-pet exam, your vet will check her mouth, looking for tartar build up. If your vet doesn’t comment, ask. Ask if he sees any build up and if so what you can do. Prevention is so important because, unlike humans, a most pets need to be anesthetized (think about it) to have anyone poking around and “doing things” in their mouth.
Helping your pet maintain a healthy mouth can be both passive and active on your part. You can help her strengthen her periodontal muscles (passive) and you can brush her teeth for her (active).
Like, humans your pet has tiny muscles holding each tooth in her jaw. These are called periodontal muscles. When tartar builds that becomes an excellent bed for bacteria to set up an infection, weakening and eventually destroying those muscles. When inflamed and weakened, a periodontal muscle loses its holding power and your pet loses her tooth. Other health consequences (which we covered in our previous blog on oral health) can also result, too.
So, the first way to help your pet maintain good oral health is give her ample opportunity to chew. Chewing exercises those muscles and, as with any muscles, strong perio muscles are better at their job and better at fighting off bacterial attacks.
The easiest way to give pup or kitty chewing exercise is by including a good quality kibble in their meals. Although there are many good reasons to feed pets canned, raw, refrigerated or dehydrated foods, none of these provide chewing exercise. If you choose one of these other types of food for nutrition reasons, consider offering a combination of your food of choice and kibble.
Two other types of chew opportunities are dental treats such as Greenies (dog or cat, who can resist a Greenie?) and chew toys. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) offers a list of products they feel promote good oral health.
Merrick sells sterilized butcher bones – you know, the kind you would get from your village butcher if we still had village butchers in Brooklyn - called "Natural Bones". They leave some meat on them to entice pup’s chewing. They are available at most pet stores as well as online.
Other options to get pup to chew are Nylabones, bully sticks and rawhides (but, please, only the non bleached kind and, please remove the fragments when pup’s worked them down small enough to swallow.)
So, bottom line is work with pup to keep those periodontal muscles exercised and strong for good oral health. Your reward will be sweet smelling doggie kisses, a happy pup and lower vet bills. It’s the same story for kitty.
For those who need more help, in our next blog we’ll go through step-by-step How to Brush Your Pup’s Teeth.
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