Most pet owners never even consider cleaning their pet’s teeth, although the need for such attention seems self-evident. Instead, you simply give your dog a milk-bone and call it a day. After all, animals have much cleaner mouths than humans, right? Well, not exactly.
In truth, dogs and cats can have just as much plaque-causing bacteria latching onto their teeth, leading to decay, disease, infection, and eventually, tooth loss. So unless you’re paying attention to your pet’s dental hygiene, you could be condemning your furry friend to a lifetime of oral afflictions. Although you might have a hard time initially with cleaning your pet’s teeth, it’s something that every responsible animal lover should see to. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.
For starters, you’re not going to use a toothbrush. It’s not only difficult to get it in your pet’s mouth (which is likely smaller than yours), but you could end up hurting your struggling pet by brushing too hard (damaging the gums) or accidentally poking the throat, cheeks, or other soft areas. However, there are tools designed to help you clean your pet’s teeth. Often you’ll find small plastic or rubber cylinders that slip onto your finger and have nubby bits on one side. These soft, small projections work to scrub away plaque and stimulate the gums without causing damage to surrounding tissue. Plus, they help to hold the toothpaste in place.
Now, when you use these items, your pet will likely try to chomp on your finger. They’re not really trying to bite you, at least not maliciously, but their natural response when something tasty is in their mouth (i.e. chicken-flavored toothpaste) is to chew it up and eat it. So it can definitely be tricky to get at all of your pet’s teeth. Just keep in mind that saliva does a pretty good job of cleaning the inside of the mouth; what you really need to focus on is the outside of the teeth. The best method is to keep your pet’s jaws more or less closed and wedge your finger between the cheek and the teeth to scrub, if possible.
For smaller dogs and cats, you may not even be able to get the “toothbrush” into your animal’s mouth. In this case, try smearing some toothpaste on your finger. It won’t provide for much scrubbing action, but at least you’ll get the teeth coated in bacteria-fighting toothpaste, which is a step in the right direction. And as for how often you should repeat this procedure, it depends on the type of food you give your pet. If the diet is mainly soft foods (which stick), then you should clean your pet’s teeth daily. If hard kibble is on the menu, once or twice a week is probably enough.
Of course, you can also opt to take your pet in for a dental cleaning with the veterinarian. This is a rather pricy procedure, and you’re unlikely to get a dental discount plan, but it may be necessary, to ensure that your furry friend doesn’t lose his teeth prematurely. Of course, you may have other protests about this procedure, such as the fact that your animal must be put under before the cleaning can begin. But as long as you stick to a diet that is mainly hard food and perform regular cleanings at home, you may not ever have to take your pet in for professional teeth cleaning.