Many dogs and cats live for over a decade, and spend much of that time interacting with the world by mouth. Yet dental services are often overlooked for pets, and many owners don’t go beyond feeding dry kibble or offering treats touting dental benefits. While these can make a positive impact, pets still need additional care. After all, you brush your teeth and visit the dentist. Pets need similar attention to their own periodontal needs. Here are our top tips for taking care of Fido or Fluffy’s teeth:

  • Regularly check the gums for inflammation. It’s as simple as gently lifting your dog or cat’s lips and observing the color and shape of the upper and lower gums. As long as they are a healthy, consistent pink, and not white, red, bleeding, or swollen, your pet is in good shape.
  • Pay attention to your pet’s breath. It may not be your favorite smell ever, but as long as you can tolerate regular kisses or morning breath and don’t notice anything foul then all is well. Truly bad breath or a change in breath odor over time could indicate a digestive problem or a periodontal disease.
  • Get your pet used to dental care. Puppies and kittens especially offer a great opportunity to get them accustomed to having you touching their mouths, moving their lips, and brushing their teeth. It’s important to get them used to such contact at a young age, so that dental care will be easier later in life. Older pets can also learn to tolerate such handling, but you may need to start slowly and develop these new routines bit by bit over time.
  • Ask if your veterinarian offers dental services or can referr you to one who can. Just like people need more than daily brushing to keep their teeth in tip top shape, pets need regular cleanings. It’s also good for peace of mind to know who to call in case of periodontal disease or a dental emergency. For example, Longwood has a state of the art dental suite that can handle everything from routine cleaning to radiographs to extraction procedures.
  • Learn to brush your pet’s teeth. You can use your finger, a child’s tooth brush, or one specifically designed for pets. You should ALWAYS use pet toothpaste, NEVER human toothpaste. Pet toothpaste contains less flouride and is designed to be swallowed by little creatures. You can learn how to brush your furry friend’s teeth from a web video like the two below, or from your veterinary office. If you aren’t comfortable doing this or your pet finds the process particularily disagreeable and is especially difficult, many groomers offer basic teeth cleaning as an add-on service.

Left unattended, pets’ dental problems can affect the rest of their health. Mouth diseases can lead to whole body infections, kidney problems and more.¬†With so many reasons to keep up with your pet’s dental care, there’s no reason not to begin addressing it today.