He's loving, oh-so-faithful, and you can't stop looking at that cute face of his. He's the dreamiest date for your Saturday movie night. And boy, can he kiss—only his breath…is downright vile.
If your pet's halitosis sends you running in the opposite direction, it’s probably not a stomach issue–it’s his teeth. In fact, 85 percent of pets have periodontal disease, which is a source of chronic infection and bacteria for most animals. This super-common problem can pose a serious risk for most pets, as bacteria can travel through the blood stream to vital organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver.
Plus, if your dog or cat’s teeth become infected and ridden with tartar buildup, they’ll have to be extracted, which usually involves anesthesia—and doesn't come cheap.
So how can you keep their teeth gleaming? Just like humans, dogs and cats need their teeth brushed and cleaned regularly. Yes, it's true that getting pets to sit happily through a scrubbing session isn't a walk in the park, but you can do yourself a favor by getting pets acclimated to the routine when they’re puppies or kittens. If they become accustomed to you shoving a toothbrush in their mouth when they’re young, it won’t be so difficult for you to brush their teeth as they get older.
Another helpful way to keep your pet’s teeth squeaky clean is to offer them dental chews. These “treats” can help scrape off plaque and buildup, and they’re fun for your pet! Dry food, especially with bigger chunks, are also good for prevention against buildup for your pets. Veterinarian Dana DePerno of Malibu Coast Animal Hospital recommends kibble and freeze-dried food—raw food that's had the water removed to retain nutrition while keeping food fresh—to help scratch and scale off the teeth and strengthen the gums. Even though feeding pets soft food can seem like the more organic or luxury option, the truth if animals need a combination of hard and soft food for optimal gum and dental health.
If you adopt an older animal or brushing simply falls by the wayside, don’t feel bad. “I have kids, a full time job, and run a business, and I don’t have time to brush my dog’s teeth!” laughs Dr. DePerno. She recommends sending your pet in for professional grade cleanings every six to 12 months; when the vet cleans your pet’s teeth, they’ll put them under anesthesia in order to get up under the gum line, where bacteria tends to grow.
If you're not giving your furry friend dry food, a dental chew toy, or a good brushing at night, you're going to have a serious dental problem on your hands. The fact is that your pet's mouth contains more bacteria than yours, so plaque and tartar is inevitably going to build up if you aren't proactive. Every breed of dog and cat is different when it comes to dental hygiene, but smaller animals tend to have more issues than larger breeds.
You want your furry BFF to live a long, healthy, sweet-smelling life. Taking care of their teeth is good for them—and will let you enjoy those doggy kisses for years to come.
Photo credit: Paul Delmont