It’s that time of year again: National Pet Dental Health Month.
The purpose of this incredibly important month is to serve as a reminder to take your pet to your veterinarian to get a checkup on your pet’s dental health. Why is it critical to do this? Dental disease is a HUGE driver of overall health.
Here’s a little bit of information about it:
1. Dental disease can steal years off of your pet’s life and decrease the quality of their life.
2. Cats, small, and raw-fed dogs don’t usually drink enough water, which helps to dilute the bad-smelling and inflammation-causing waste products that oral bacteria make; which poses an enhanced risk to your pet on a daily basis.
3. Dental disease is NOT caused by plaque and/or tartar – pets that have squeaky clean teeth can still have dental disease.
4. Dental disease *is* caused by fungal and bacterial species that live deep below the gum surfaces, where no toothbrush or dental cleaning can adequately reach. Those microbes cause the inflammation that leads to a tooth extraction – which is expensive!
Here are some helpful tips for at-home daily dental hygiene practices that can make a big difference in your pet’s dental health:
1. Observe – Do a weekly gum health check: look at the gums of your pet every week, paying particular attention to any swelling, discoloration or redness around the base of the teeth or beyond. If your pet has a lot of plaque or tartar build-up below the gum line that extends onto the tooth surface. It often looks like the gum tissue is tight and stretched.
2. Water – Try to get your pet to drink fresh water frequently throughout the day. Remember to wash food and water bowls thoroughly with soap, every 2-3 days. If you have a water filter, throw away that filter – it’s a reservoir for some really scary bacteria and fungi.
3. Diet – A key driver of dental disease. Make sure your pet eats a diverse diet that is rich in proteins and healthy fats and avoid carbohydrate-rich foods and chews (including some dental chews) every day: rice, corn, wheat, sweet potato, potato, starches, etc. These feed the inflammation-causing bacteria and fungi.
4. Ingredients – Avoid dental products with antiseptics, which kill beneficial bacteria and add to inflammation and screws up dental and gut health. Ingredients such as chlorine dioxide, cetylpyridinium chloride, chlorhexidine, triclosan, etc.
5. Supplements – Often helpful for dental hygiene maintenance, it can be hard to sift through all the noise in the market to determine the safest and most effective products for your pet. My personal favorites contain natural ingredients that promote the growth of the beneficial, protective bacteria needed for optimal dental health. The key differentiating benefit in TEEF, the prebiotic water supplement I developed for my own rescue, Tinzley, after she nearly died from blood poisoning caused by dental disease.
6. Brushing & Chewing – Enzymatic toothpastes are usually the best on plaque and tartar, when brushing can be done daily. Otherwise, fabric toys function pretty well as a daily means of brushing, also stimulating blood flow and saliva production to wash away those harmful microbes.