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February…. It is the month for cavity-inducing sugar and sweets for your Valentine, and shiny, white smiles for your pet! Happy Pet Dental Month! Celebrate by presenting your four-legged sweetheart with a dental check-up from your veterinarian and some new plaque-fighting products.
To prevent dental diseases such as periodontal disease and gingivitis, your pets should have annual dental check-ups with your veterinarian. If there is significant plaque and tartar accumulation, your veterinarian will probably recommend a dental cleaning for your dog or cat. These preventative measures will keep your pets’ mouth healthy and free of bad breath and painful gums. It can also prevent dangerous oral infections which can distribute bacteria to vital organs via a pet’s bloodstream.
Between check-ups and professional dental cleanings, you can also improve your pets’ oral health at home with products such as the following:
1. Planet Dog Toys: Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff toys are made of a very durable material which dogs love to chew. Gnawing on these toys is a fun and easy way for Fido to shine up his teeth. Planet Dog’s Orbee-Tuff Nut and Bolt Gum Massage toy is specially designed to floss between the teeth, reducing plaque in the hard to reach areas. As an added perk, Planet Dog donates a portion of their sales to support service dogs. They also have a line of pink toys which support the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. For more information, go to www.planetdog.com.
2. Nylabones: Nylabone offers several dental cleaning toys for all levels of chewers. From teething puppies to powerful, canine choppers, Nylabone has the right toy to clean your dog’s teeth. Some of their dental toys come equipped with nodules to massage gums and scrape plaque and tartar off teeth. There are also flavored varieties of Nylabone toys for the picky pooch. For more information, go to www.nylabone.com.
3. Greenies: Greenies are edible teeth-cleaning snacks made for both dogs and cats. Canine and Feline connoisseurs agree, Greenies are delicious! These chewy snacks will have your pet happily gnawing away dental disease. For dogs, these toothbrush-shaped snacks come in a variety of sizes. Be sure to select the size appropriate for your dog to help prevent choking. Always supervise your dog when chewing these snacks; do not allow him to swallow over-sized pieces of the Greenies. For kitties, Greenies snacks come in a variety of flavors to suit the most finicky feline’s taste. For more information, go to www.greenies.com.
4. Petstages Chew Toys: Petstages’ innovative toys are designed to meet the needs of specific stages of a pet’s life. They have a line of chew toys for both cats and dogs which are designed to clean teeth and exercise your pets’ jaw muscles and their desire to chew. For more information, go to www.petstages.com.
5. Kong Toys: Kong is an old favorite. This brand, established in 1976, is famous for its durable toys which stand up to the toughest of chewers. For those strong jawed pets who tear through other dental toys, Kong may be the answer. These toys are made of an extremely durable rubber that dogs love to gnaw, and many of the Kong toys are hollow so they can be stuffed with a treat to encourage chewing. Though the tough rubber of all Kong toys is helpful in removing tartar, Kong also has a Dental Stick toy made specifically to clean Fido’s teeth. For your cat, they have a fun, rubber toy, Kitty Kong, to shine her smile. For more information, go to www.kongcompany.com.
6. Pet Toothpastes: Ideally, you should brush your dog’s and cat’s teeth about two to three times a week. Do NOT brush your pets’ teeth with human toothpaste. Use a toothpaste designed specially for pets, which is safe to swallow and has an appealing flavor. C.E.T., Petrodex, and DentaClean are a few pet toothpaste brands. Have your veterinarian help you select the right one for your pet.
7. Pet Toothbrushes: A toothbrush designed specifically for your cat or dog is best to use. There are several styles and sizes available for your pet. There are dual ended toothbrushes, multiple brush head shapes and textures, and rubber brushes which fit over your finger. Have your veterinarian help you select the appropriate brush for your pet.
8. Dental Rinses and Wipes: Between brushes you can wash your pet’s mouth with an oral rinse or wipe which are both designed to control tartar and freshen breath. Many of these products have a residual effect which protects your pets’ teeth for 24 hours. Have your veterinarian help you select the appropriate dental rinse or wipe for your pet.
9. Veterinary Approved Dental Chews and Rawhides: Your veterinarian may sell chewy dental cleaning snacks for dogs and cats. Some of these snacks are coated with an antimicrobial called Chlorhexidine which aids in cleaning your pets’ teeth. Be sure to supervise your pets when they are chewing on these products. Also be sure to carefully read the packaging to determine how often it is safe for your pet to have these chews.
10. Dental-Friendly Pet Foods and Treats: Some foods help clean your pets’ teeth as they chew. Dry foods are more orally-friendly than canned or soft foods. Moist foods tend to stick to your pets’ teeth, encouraging plaque and tartar accumulation. Some pet foods and treats are especially healthy for your pets’ teeth, and they are endorsed by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. These foods are labeled Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Accepted.
Above all, the most useful tool in your pets’ oral health is your knowledge of the importance of their clean teeth, your close observation of their dental condition, and your commitment to maintaining their pearly whites.