Is your doggie’s bad breath sabotaging your cuddle time? Does your kitty drool while downing his dinner? If so, your four-legged family member likely has dental disease. A study of Banfield Pet Hospital’s 770-unit network identified dental problems as the most common maladies among pets, affecting 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of adult dogs.
Most dental diseases, including halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis (gum disease) are caused by tartar accumulation. All cats and dogs can develop dental tartar, but small-breed dogs like Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are at greatest risk.
You can head off tartar buildup by:
Brushing your pet’s teeth at least two to three times a week. Ask your vet to share her secrets for success, or have her observe—and critique—as you give your little guy a cleaning.
Choosing chews wisely. Dental chews, additives and specially formulated dry foods that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance (Vohc.org/accepted_products.htm) can help prevent tartar buildup, but nothing beats regular brushing (sorry!).
Doing a monthly mouth inspection. Look for excess tartar (brownish spots on the teeth), redness or swelling of the gums and broken or loose teeth. No need to wrestle his jaws open: Just pull his lips up while his mouth is closed to get a good view.
While keeping your furry friend’s teeth clean does take time, your efforts will spare her stress and discomfort—and save you heartache, hassle and money in the long run.
Dr. Nancy Kay is an award-winning veterinarian and author of Speaking for Spot.