Cat TeethTaking care of our oral health is such a normal part of our everyday routine that it can be easy to forget that our pets rely on us to help them with their oral care.

We all know the drill. Flossing and brushing happen in the wee hours of the morning before our coffee or after a long day at work and it may not even cross our minds to check the mouths of our pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Associationover fifty percent of our pets will suffer from some type of oral health issue with their risk increasing as they age. Estimates show that the cost to fix these issues is over three times the cost of prevention.  For most pet owners, the idea that their four legged buddies might suffer pain is all they need to know to act.

So what are some practical things that we can do that will fit into our daily routines to help ensure the oral health of our pets?

– Learn what is normal and what is not normal inside your pet’s mouth

If you haven’t done so already, speak with your vet about what your pet’s mouth and teeth should look like. Then, after you know what to look for, incorporate inspections into your pet care routine. During these inspections, be sure to smell your pet’s breath as changes in this area may aid in the identification of oral hygiene issues or possible illness. This can be done once a week or you can chose to make it a regular part of your day. Generally, with time and a soothing touch, a pet will acclimate to this process and be a willing participant in this new routine.

– Learn how to properly brush your pet’s teeth

There are many options, but none are as good as brushing your pet’s teeth. Idealistically, this would be done daily just as with our own teeth. There are some wonderful video tutorials for both dogs and cats online that are only a few minutes long. It’s important to brush with pet approved toothpaste. Don’t have time to run to the store? No problem. There are multiple choices online. You can have a kit delivered right to your door that contains a toothbrush designed for your pet as well as toothpaste in delicious flavors including beef, poultry, and mint. Now we all know that life happens, there won’t always be time to brush. Don’t worry, there are many things that can be done to supplement a tooth brushing routine.

Happy Dog Mouth– Supplement with other options

Professional cleanings: pets should have at least one professional cleaning a year. This is usually done by your vet under general anesthesia, but for those animals who cannot be anesthetized, there are other options which your vet can discuss with you.

Plaque remover water additives: while this may sound a bit alarming, many pet owners successfully use water additives to help with pet oral care (these usually have the added benefit of helping with bad breath). These water additives cost mere pocket change per dosage and are well worth the benefits. Simply add the recommended amount to fresh water daily and you and your pet are all set.

Plague removing foams and gels: These foams and gels are also easy to administer to your pet. Some people use them instead of pet toothpaste as they find that their animals think they are getting a treat. Many choose to use a “finger brush” instead of a toothbrush or if you simply don’t have time, you can squeeze a bit onto your finger and let your pet lick it off.

Oral care dental wipes: wipes epitomize convenience. These can be stowed in a suitcase for a weekend trip, used to get those hard to reach spots in a pet’s mouth, or used for an older dog or cat who may need a gentle touch.

Oral hygiene rinse: for those pet owners who are confident enough, this product is an amazing option for supplementation with brushing. We all know the many health benefits of rinsing after brushing so it isn’t hard to understand why this same practice is beneficial for our pets.

As you can see, there are many options when it comes to making sure that our furry family members enjoy the comfort and happiness that comes with a healthy mouth. Always remember to speak to your vet about your pet’s individual needs before implementing a new care routine. However, once you have the green light, you and your family will be feeling good about your decision to have this additional way of showing your pets how much you care.

photo credits: Cat Yawn via photopin (license)Oso the pug 8_2011 via photopin (license)