BRUSH YOUR PETS TEETH, RIGHT
How often does your pet need an oral check-up?
All dogs and cats should get a complete oral exam at their regular vet visit. "About 85 percent of dogs over the age of 3 have periodontal disease, caused by accumulation of plaque bacteria on the surface of their teeth over time," says Carmichael. Cats are more prone to tooth resorption, a condition causing painful, cavity-like holes in their teeth.
Am I really supposed to brush my pet's teeth?
Brace yourself: "Daily tooth brushing is the gold standard of home oral hygiene in both dogs and cats," says Alexander Reiter, D.M.V., professor and chief of dentistry and oral surgery at Penn Vet's Ryan Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia. Introduce brushing at a young age: Start by massaging the lips daily so your pet gets familiar with the feeling. Once your pet is more comfortable having your fingers around its mouth, introduce a pet toothbrush, smaller and softer than yours, using a paste formulated for animals. If your pet is extra squirmy, try an antiplaque wipe, gel, rinse, or spray instead.
What are some signs my pet is having dental problems?
Unusually bad breath, broken teeth, and red or bloody gums are the more obvious symptoms. But watch for subtler indications your cat or dog is in pain. "If you pet starts choosing soft food over crunch kibble or not chewing on bones and treats as usual, that's a sign of a potential dental problem," says Carmichael. Because cats use their mouths for grooming, a kitty that suddenly looks less tidy may also be having dental problems.
Chew toys: Yay or nay?
Toys made from hard nylon, bones cooked or uncooked, antlers, and cow hooves can fracture teeth and should be avoided, says Reiter. Instead, opt for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, http://vohc.org/ to reduce plaque and tarter and keep teeth clean.