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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Giving Your Pet a Healthy Dental Lifestyle

Feb 02, 2015 05:29PM ● By Mary Oquendo

The American Veterinary Dental Society reports that, by age three, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats develop dental disease. In addition, the group states that you can increase the life of your pet by 25 percent by practicing a healthy dental lifestyle. Clinical research shows a direct correlation between poor oral health and systemic diseases. Bacteria, food debris and saliva cause plaque. It takes three to five days for plaque to become calculus, commonly known as “tartar.” In addition, bacteria enter the bloodstream at the gum line. These bacteria infect the heart, liver, kidney and lungs as well as weaken the immune system as they travels throughout the body. Left untreated, periodontal disease will lead to oral pain, tooth loss and systemic problems.

How do you know if your pet has periodontal disease?
Signs include:
• Bad breath
• Inflamed or red gums
• Bleeding gums while eating
• Tartar, a yellowish-brown crusty buildup, on the teeth and gum line
• Change in eating habits, including avoiding the hard kibble for softer food due to pain
• Resorptive lesions on cat’s gums that are painful and damage the integrity of the teeth

If your pets’ teeth are currently in poor condition, schedule a visit with your veterinarian before doing anything else. You may opt to have an ultrasonic scaling done and start with a clean slate. An ultrasonic scaling is usually what veterinarians’ refer to as a dental.

For preventive measures, you have many options when it comes to caring for your pets’ teeth.

Dental toys: What makes a toy a dental toy? The design should include ways to massage the gums, strengthen the chewing muscles, remove tartar build-up, and clean between the teeth. These include toys with raised nubs, rope toys and toys designed for power chewers. Keep in mind that you need to buy appropriate sized toys for your pets. Inappropriate sized toys can become a choking hazard.

Treats: Always read the ingredient list. Hidden sugars, such as beet pulp, molasses or high fructose corn syrup defeat the purpose of the treat because bacteria feed on sugar. The purpose of the treat should either create friction to break down the calculus or contain ingredients that do. The Veterinary Oral Health Council ( has set a standard and you can find information on their standards and approved products on their website.

Toothbrushes: While those $12 triple head brushes are good, a toothbrush from the dollar store will do the trick. If your pet allows you access to his mouth, a finger brush is less intrusive than a toothbrush. A piece of gauze wrapped around your finger will also work.

Toothpaste: You need to use pet toothpaste. Conventional toothpaste made for people contains fluoride and detergents, which are harmful to your pet. Introduce it to your pet in a gradual, positive manner. Start with something tasty like peanut butter or tuna water. Begin in the rear of the mouth and work your way out. Your pet may be more accepting of the brush leaving the mouth as opposed to entering it. Brush their teeth in the same manner as you do for yourself. Don’t get discouraged if you cannot finish in one sitting. It may take time and patience on your part for your pet to accept it. You should brush their teeth two to three times a week.

Dental sprays: These contain ingredients that dissolve plaque and tartar when sprayed directly into your pets’ mouth.

Dental wipes: The active ingredient is chlorohexidine. Chlorohexidine kills bacteria that form plaque. Like the gauze wraps, these may be less intrusive than a toothbrush.

Diet: Many commercial pet foods contain hidden sugars and a high carbohydrate (fillers) ratio. Once again, bacteria feed on these ingredients so read your labels. Dry kibble creates more friction than canned food. This friction helps to remove tartar.

Raw bones: Raw bones are nature’s toothbrush. They are easy to find at any supermarket. Please note that cooked bones will splinter and cause intestinal damage. When your pets gnaw on the bones, it naturally removes plaque and tartar. The bones also provide a good source of available calcium. The marrow contains enzymes, minerals, protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and bulk to help your pet stay healthy and regular. However, the marrow is very rich and could pose a problem for those pets with pancreatic concerns. In addition, too much marrow in a short period of time can cause pancreatic issues even in healthy pets.

Water additives: This is one of the easiest methods to use. Simply add it to your pet’s drinking water according to manufacturer specifications.

Your pets’ teeth need to last them a lifetime and taking just a few of these measures could make that lifetime 25 percent longer.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All in New Milford. She can be reached at See ad, page 77.