Dental care is very important at Walker Veterinary Hospital. Most pet owners are surprised to learn about the need for dental care for their animals. That probably explains why we see so many dental problems that could have been prevented. With proper care, your dog or cat should have its teeth for life and should not spend 1/3 of it toothless.
Puppyhood and Kittenhood:
Dogs have 28 deciduous (baby) teeth and 42 permanent teeth. Cats have 26 deciduous teeth and 30 permanent teeth. The baby teeth appear at two to three weeks of age and the adult teeth appear about four months of age. All permanent teeth should be present by eight months. Retained baby teeth should be extracted before they displace the nearby adult teeth.
Periodontal disease (gum disease) is the number one dental health problem in dogs and cats. Initially the teeth appear normal with the gum and tooth damage occurring under the gum margin (and out of sight). As the disease advances the gum margin becomes red and inflamed, the infection invades the deeper gum tissue and jaw bones. The teeth loosen and the pet’s general health will suffer.
The early changes are insidious and they occur EARLY in the animal’s life. They are present between one and three years of age. By age three, about 85 percent of all pets are candidates for some form of professional dental care and 100 percent should be on some form of home care. Remember, dental tartar and plaque represent an incurable disease. The damage they cause to the gums is progressive and usually irreversible. BUT this can be controlled by proper care.
10 Recommendations for Home Dental Care:
1. When to start? AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; 8 – 12 weeks old is best. Pets don’t need maintenance this young, but by brushing once or twice weekly they will be familiar with the routine when the permanent teeth erupt.
2. The first step is to work with your pet’s mouth. With a little patience your pet will soon accept your attention. MAKE IT FUN for both of you. Use a lot of love and especially praise to gain their confidence.
3. Start by handling the mouth and soon you will be able to rub the teeth and gums with your finger.
4. Put a few drops of water, flavored with garlic or garlic salt, in your pet’s mouth daily. They will soon look forward to this treat.
5. Next, if needed, use a washcloth or any animal toothpaste, liquid or solid.
6. Finally, use a soft (pediatric) toothbrush and water (human toothpaste foams and frightens them) to brush the teeth. Brushing the tongue side of the teeth is unnecessary. Use the garlic water – MAKE IT A GAME.
7. Baking soda, pet toothpaste or liquid oral rinse can all be used, but remember – IT’S THE BRUSHING WHICH DOES MOST OF THE CLEANING.
8. Brushing at least twice weekly is recommended (daily is better).
9. It helps to give abrasive foods and toys such as dry kibble, ox tails, large knuckle bones, chew toys, etc.
10. DO NOT FEED BONES WHICH THEY CAN CRUNCH UP AND SWALLOW.
The above care will greatly improve your pet’s dental health and increase the time interval until professional cleaning is required.