Several years ago I adopted a rescue Persian cat, and during that time, I’ve learned that he has hatred for a lot of things. But nothing is as great as his hatred for a toothbrush.
The effects of this aversion cost me a hefty bill each time professional teeth cleaning time comes around, but it’s a small price to pay. If left unchecked, poor dental hygiene in pets can lead to far more serious repercussions.
Allowing bacteria to build up on teeth (causing plaque and tartar) can harm your pet’s health beyond bad breath, inflammation, painful gums and loose teeth, said Dr. Maureen K. Murithi, a licensed veterinarian who consults for PetKeen, a virtual health platform for pets.
“Dental disease often caused by bacteria, if not treated on time, can lead to the translocation of bacteria through the blood to body organs such as the heart, kidneys, predisposing them to infections that are fatal,” Murithi said.
According to Murithi, these risks are even higher for certain cat and dog breeds such as pugs, Persians, Yorkshire terriers and Dachshunds, because their facial structure means they are more dispositioned to dental problems.
Dr. Whitney Miller, chief veterinarian for Petco, said that although manual brushing is probably the best way to keep up with your pet’s oral hygiene (in addition to regular teeth cleanings from your vet), it’s also understandable if they don’t always want to deal with a toothbrush.
“Pet parents can supplement with other dental care aids like dental treats, water additives or dental wipes. Dental chews are a great option to build a routine while supporting your dog’s healthy mouth, teeth and gums and they even work double duty as a tasty reward,” Miller said.
Whatever supplemental products that you choose to incorporate in your pet’s routine, Dr. Heidi Cooley, a veterinarian with Banfield Pet Hospital, said you should look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance on the product’s package or website.
“The VOHC provides third party assessment for dental products and a ‘seal of acceptance’ means the product meets a pre-set criteria for effectiveness in controlling plaque and tartar deposition in dogs and cats,” Cooley said.
She added that gradual consistency and soothing praise can go a long way when introducing new items to your pet.
But when no amount of cajoling, meat-flavored pastes or post-brushing rewards can get your furry friend within 10 feet of the scary dental tool in question, this round-up of veterinarian-recommended alternatives may be able to help.
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