Many owners want to start their pets on the road to good dental health but struggle to choose the right dental product.
Good dental hygiene starts with a healthy mouth, which is why owners should have their pets' teeth and gums checked by their veterinarian. At home, it is important to remember not to use human toothpaste or baking soda. Both can make a pet sick. There are different products available to clean your pet's teeth, including gels, toothbrushes toothpaste and even diets. Deciding on which one to use often depends on the temperament and age of your dog or cat.
Starting off pets when they are young is the best way to get them to accept regular teeth cleaning. Dental care can begin around 3 or 4 months of age. You can get your kitten used to having his teeth cleaned by gently rubbing and massaging them with a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. For detailed information on brushing, see the story How to Brush Your Cat's Teeth.
Finger Brushes, Toothbrushes and Gels
The next step can be the finger brush. This small, thimble-like device contains soft bristles that dislodge food particles stuck between teeth and the gum line. The finger brush is placed over the index finger, and circular motions help dislodge particles that can cause periodontitis, the most common ailment seen in cats. Your cat may be more accepting of your finger than a foreign object like a toothbrush. It is a good way to introduce your cat to regular brushing, and you may be able to graduate to a toothbrush.
Toothbrushes for cats are designed a little differently than a child's toothbrush. They are smaller and single-ended, and have an angled head suited more for a cat's mouth. The shape is designed to reach the gum margins at the rear molars.
The pet toothpaste for both is designed with enzymes to prevent plaque from forming. Toothpaste comes in a variety of pet-pleasing flavors. For cats, there is beef, chicken and even fish flavors.
However, some cats absolutely refuse any sort of brush in their mouth. For these recalcitrant cats, oral hygiene gels can help maintain their teeth. Gels contain the enzymes found in toothpastes.
Owners smear a little onto the gum surface with their fingers once every day, or they can mix a little with food. This will encourage salivation, which then covers the gums and teeth. The gel contains mild abrasives that help break down and prevent plaque.
Treats and Formulated Diets
When it comes to teeth, certain types of cat food are better than others. Kibble cat food is hard and the grinding action serves to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Canned cat food, on the other hand, is soft and can cling to teeth and gums, encouraging plaque formation.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council recommends a number of diets and treats. The council evaluates commercial products to determine if they meet the standards necessary to control plaque and tartar in dogs and cats. The council is appointed by the board of directors of the American Veterinary Dental College and reviews products that are submitted to them. Products that meet the standards are endorsed with the statement "Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Accepted®." Here are three diets the council recommends: