Good dental health is incredibly important to your pet’s overall health, happiness, and comfort. Infiltrative oral bacteria can cause a host of health conditions that range from discomfort while eating to heart, liver, and kidney disease. Keep your four-legged friend’s mouth in great condition by working on their oral health at home.

#1: Discard dangerous chew toys

Chew toys are a great form of entertainment to keep your pet out of trouble, but you must choose pet-safe products. While many dogs are considered “power chewers,” aggressively chewing inappropriate items can lead to damaged teeth or a gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction. Some popular, but hazardous, chew toys for pets include:

  • Flavored bones, hooves, and antlers — These items’ durability make them especially popular, but too-tough chews can lead to painful and costly tooth fractures.
  • Rawhides — Chewed rawhides become slimy and can wad up in your pet’s intestines, creating an obstruction. Plus, the flavoring can seriously upset their stomach.
  • Tennis balls — Tennis balls are a popular fetch toy, but excessive chewing can wear down your pet’s enamel. 
  • Rope toys — Rope toys seem fun and durable, but they break down over time and strings that are swallowed can cause a linear foreign body in your pet’s GI tract.

Swap out dangerous chew toys for safer options, like rubber Kongs, Goughnuts, and approved dental chews. However, keep in mind that any toy or chew can be hazardous for pets, should they bite off large chunks or swallow the chew whole. Monitor your pet closely to ensure no accidents occur.

#2: Take time to brush your pet’s teeth

At home, nothing helps prevent plaque and tartar accumulation—and, therefore, dental disease—more than regular toothbrushing. Plaque, a sticky biofilm chock-full of harmful bacteria that begins to form on teeth about 24 hours after your pet eats, will harden into tartar in 72 hours if not scrubbed away. Tartar is virtually impossible to remove through toothbrushing alone. 

Make a point to brush your pet’s teeth daily if possible, but at least every few days. A quick swipe across the outer, cheek-facing surfaces of your pet’s teeth is often adequate, especially since many pets will not allow you to open their mouth and brush the inner, tongue-facing side of the teeth. A few minutes of daily toothbrushing will vastly improve your pet’s oral health and ward off dental disease.

#3: Double up on dental care products

Toothbrushing is the gold standard of at-home dental care, but sometimes is simply not possible. However, you can still take care of your furry pal’s mouth. Try a variety of dental care products to see which ones your pet most favors and which ones provide the most benefits. Double up on products to take advantage of additional plaque- and tartar-fighting abilities by combining some of the following products to design your pet’s dental care regimen:

  • Dental chews
  • Dental treats
  • Prescription dental health diets
  • Food and water additives
  • Oral sprays, rinses, and wipes

#4: Choose proven dental care products

When choosing dental care products for your pet, the many options can be overwhelming. While all the products may claim to effectively battle dental disease, only a few have been proven to slow plaque and tartar accumulation. Before you buy, check for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of acceptance, which denotes that the product has proven, effective plaque- and tartar-fighting abilities.

#5: Learn to identify dental disease signs

Spotting and treating early dental disease in your pet will prevent progressive pain and infection. If dental disease has a chance to take root and spread, your pet can suffer from tooth-root abscesses, loose teeth, and organ damage. Check their mouth regularly—ideally when you brush their teeth—for these dental disease signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Excessive drooling
  • Ropey, blood-tinged saliva
  • Red, swollen, bleeding, or inflamed gums
  • Brown, yellow, or grey plaque and tartar accumulation
  • Lumps or bumps
  • Sores on the lips or oral tissues
  • Broken, worn, loose, or missing teeth

Pets with dental disease likely will find eating difficult and may refuse dry food but eagerly lap up a soft diet, chew on one side of their mouth, or drop food while eating. You must watch your pet closely, because some pets with early dental disease show no signs, and may hide their pain, even as their condition progresses.

Your pet needs professional dental care, in addition to the toothbrushing and general oral care that you provide at home, to help ensure their mouth stays healthy. Contact our Creature Comforts Veterinary Service team to schedule your pet’s oral exam and dental cleaning.