Many veterinarians stress the importance of oral hygiene because tooth and gum problems are common medical conditions seen in pets. If left unchecked, an unhealthy mouth can affect the liver, kidneys, heart and even the brain.
So when you lean in to give your pet a smooch, ask yourself “Does my pet need a breath mint?” Studies show that 98% of pets with bad breath are suffering from severe plaque build up. Bad breath not only means that your pet’s mouth may be a warehouse for unhealthy bacteria, tartar and plaque, but it can also point to unhealthy intestines. In addition, the quality of your pet’s food can contribute to the status of your pet’s breath. Low quality food can cause digestive problems, thus promoting bad breath.
Can I Share My Toothpaste With My Pet? Absolutely not!
Pets aren’t like us: they swallow whatever you use to clean their teeth. Human toothpaste simply isn’t edible. Nor is the heavy minty flavor really desirable to pets. Human toothpaste can give your pet some serious stomach problems.
Did you know…?
Certain breeds of dogs and cats are genetically predisposed to unhealthy teeth and gums? For example, the Maltese is the number one dog breed with tooth and gum problems. In the cat world, the Siamese and the Abyssinian, charming as they are, have serious tooth problems and often get some of their teeth pulled during their youth. Other factors include viruses, bacteria and not enough abrasive foods.
It all starts with the gums looking almost red, and some of the teeth coated with tartar. When it comes to your pet’s mouth, don’t take anything for granted. When you examine your pet, slowly open his mouth with your fingers and ask yourself the following questions:
- Does his breath smell like he just raided a rotten fish market?
- Are any of his canines or molars discolored (gray, brown or green)? (Keep in mind that a pet’s teeth may be yellow due to early antibiotics like tetracycline—totally normal.)
- Are his gums swollen and bright pink or angry red like a lobster with a sunburn? Note that normal colored gums should be light to medium pink. For some dark colored cats and dogs, gums may be gray.
- Do you see any sores on the gums, particularly if you have a cat? They’ll look like craters on the top or bottom gum or lip?
- Are his bottom teeth worn down like the soles of a shoe?
- Do you see any swelling or sores on his face around the lips, under the eyes or nose? Bad teeth can result in a manifestation of external sores.
- If you have a puppy or a kitten, do you see any double teeth?
- Is he drooling like a newborn? Keep in mind that some dogs always drool, like the St. Bernard. If your pet is experiencing excessive drooling but doesn’t usually, it could indicate some problem.
- Has he lost weight recently as a result of not eating enough?
It’s also important to observe your pet’s behavior as far as food is concerned. Has your pet been approaching his food bowl reluctantly? Has he been eating slower than usual and has he exhibited trouble biting hard things? Does your dog or cat cry during or after eating? Does your cat have the tendency to pick up food, spit it out, pick it up again and finally throw it to the back with his tongue?
If you’ve nodded your head to two or more of any of the questions above, then it’s clear that your pet has some dental health issues!
Regular brushing with a dog/cat-specific toothbrush and toothpaste helps, and so do certain toys and treats that are formulated to reduce bacteria in your pet’s mouth. Just as you brush your own teeth a few times a day, a dog and cats mouth also needs daily attention. BUT- You must take your pet to your veterinarian right away for an oral examination. Remember, they are family 🙂