Happy National Pet Dental Health Month!

February is National Pet Dental Health Month and at Animal Medical Center of the Cascades we’re marking this important occasion by shining a light on your pet’s pearly – or not so pearly – whites and the many products you can use to keep your best friend smiling between vet visits.

There’s a reason the veterinary community devotes an entire month to pet dental health. Your pet’s teeth are directly tied to their overall well-being, and even young pets can suffer the beginning stages of dental disease. Did you know that, by age three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show some evidence of tooth decay?

At advanced stages, dental disease can significantly impact a pet’s quality of life, making eating difficult due to mouth pain. Plus, bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and cause heart, liver, and kidney complications. Keeping up with the cleanliness of your pet’s teeth and their overall dental health can prevent years of discomfort, disease, and lost teeth.

Read on for information on products and techniques you can try at home to advance your pet’s dental health.

With so many home care dental products on the market, it’s hard to know which one is the best for your pet. Our advice is to stick to products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. The VOCH is a group of board-certified veterinary dentists and dental scientists who have come together to test oral health products and their efficacy when it comes to treating and preventing periodontal disease. The VOCH evaluates products primarily in on their proven track record in tartar and plaque reduction. Tartar and plaque are the precursors for periodontal disease.

Daily brushing is the most effective method for keeping your pet’s oral health at its best. We understand that brushing your pet’s teeth isn’t easy, but it’s very much worth the effort. Don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian for brushing tips. There are several steps you can take to make this task easier, including getting down on your pet’s level, starting slowly, and offering lots of praise.

Dental chews are the next best thing to daily brushing work in reducing both plaque and tartar. Dental chews must be an appropriate size for your pet. Using a chew that is too small, which can lead to your pet chewing the product in half or even swallowing it whole, can cause gastrointestinal problems and is not conducive to oral health benefits. And always make sure to monitor your pet whenever you give them a dental chew.

Rawhide chews can also be effective with removing tartar. (They do not reduce plaque.) There has been a recent recall on some rawhide chews due to possible salmonella in the products, so please research all products properly.

A quick note: water additives, oral gels, and powdered supplements aren’t as effective as the above approaches and products, but they can be used when nothing else is working or when your pet refuses chews or to cooperate during brushing sessions.

Below is a list of some examples of home care dental products by category. A complete list of VOHC-approved products can be found at www.vohc.org.

Dental Diets

  • Hills T/d- large kibble to allow the most contact with the tooth surfaces (veterinary only)
  • Science Diet oral health care for dogs (non-veterinary)

Dental Chews

  • OraVet Dental Hygiene chews (veterinary only)
  • Milk Bone dental chews (non-veterinary)
  • Purina Dentalife Daily Oral Care (non-veterinary)
  • Greenies (non-veterinary)
  • Zuke’s Z Bone dental chew (non-veterinary)

Water additives, gels, or powders

  • Healthy Mouth water additives (veterinary only)
  • ProDen Plaque Off powder (non-veterinary)
  • PerioSupport powder (non-veterinary)

If you would like to discuss the different home care products further, please contact Animal Medical Center of Cascades at (703) 956-1522. Our dental board-certified veterinary technician will be more than happy to assist you.

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