Looking for a gift to show your pets how much you love them this Valentine's Day? How about a toothbrush?
In addition to Valentine's Day, February is a time to celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month, sponsored annually by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Far from being simply a cosmetic issue or a cause of bad breath, oral disease in pets can cause receding gums, tooth loss and significant pain. Even worse, bacteria in the mouth can enter your pet's bloodstream, leading to life-threatening conditions affecting the heart, liver and kidneys.
Along with annual dental exams and cleanings at your veterinarian's office, the AVMA recommends tooth brushing for dogs and cats. Pet owners can work with their veterinarians to begin a pet dental care routine at home in addition to regular dental exams and professional dental cleanings.
To help keep your pets' mouths clean, healthy and ready for kisses, the AVMA is providing the following tips to help you start a daily brushing routine with your pets:
Get the right tools: Select a soft-bristle brush or finger brush made specifically for pets. Don't use toothpaste made for people, as these products could make your pet sick. While there are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products or treats you're considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendations.
Make introductions: Slowly introduce your pet to their brush and paste. Leave these items out for a week or so to allow your pet to examine, smell and taste them, and associate these items with treats to establish a positive connection.
A taste of paste: The next step is to gently apply some of the paste to your pet's teeth and gums, and reward them with treats. This will get your pet used to the process of having the paste in their mouths and applied to their teeth, and establish an association between this process and rewards.
Begin brushing: When your pet is comfortable with the paste application routine, begin to use the brush in your pet's mouth, focusing on the outside of your pet's teeth. Do this slowly and briefly, and award your pet with treats and praise. Gradually build up to longer intervals as your pet gets more comfortable with the process.
To learn more about dental care for pets, including causes and signs of oral health problems in pets and an instructional video on brushing pets' teeth, visit avma.org/PetDental.