Posted in cats, dogs, pet health

Flash those pearly whites

My cats will never make it in a fashion tableau. Why not? They haven’t got the teeth. Well, they have teeth, but not a dazzling, smile-engaging mouthful. Today, humans seem to have a fixation on the look of dental health, but try to convince them that there’s more to it than a flashing white set of choppers and they may lose interest. Especially if the teeth belong to Fido or Miss Kitty.

You’ve got to admit, getting a closer look at your pet’s teeth could be a challenge.

As part of a regular yearly exam at the veterinarian’s, your pet’s teeth and gums should be examined. Dental health can affect your pet’s overall health; problems warrant quick diagnosis and treatment before they lead to further illness.

* If your pet refuses to eat foods which require biting, it may be experiencing tooth pain. If refusal to eat extends past 24 hours, check with your vet, earlier if accompanied by other signs of illness such as fever or vomiting.

* Any redness, swelling, or soreness of the gums may indicate an abscess or injury to a tooth’s roots, or gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums which can lead to weakening of the roots and tooth loss.

* Discoloration of the teeth and tartar deposits can be prevented somewhat by providing your pet with a dry kibble for cats and dry kibble or bones or chew toys for a dog. (Your pet’s diet should not be changed without transitioning to a new feed.)

* Excessive amounts of tartar may still need to be removed by a veterinarian, which is usually a lengthy process that requires sedation.

* If your pet is on a soft food diet for other health reasons, ask about products that can help clean your pet’s teeth without affecting their special dietary needs.

* Bad breath may be a clue to digestive disorders as well as tooth decay. Make note of any changes in your pet’s diet and discuss the symptoms with your vet.

Products to maintain your pet’s dental needs should be used only after consulting with your veterinarian as to their possible benefits or risks:

* Tooth and gum wipes (for adult cats and dogs) are said to combat bad breath, tooth decay, and gingivitis

* Drinking water additives (for adult cats and dogs) are said to freshen breath and fight plaque by killing bacteria

* Dental treats and chews (for adult cats and dogs) fight tartar buildup by the abrasive action of chewing the product. Watch your pet when it is chewing on these to prevent accidents.

* Toothpaste and brushing systems include flavored pastes that are considered safe if swallowed.

* Toothbrushes include plastic cones with soft bristles that fit over your index finger, as well as long-handled brushes with bristles that surround the tooth for maximum cleaning effort.

As always, you should monitor your pet while using any of these products and report any adverse reactions promptly to your vet.

Once your pet’s dental needs are met, you’ll have a happy pet, though maybe not a swanky cover model for “A Cat’s Life” or “A Dog’s Tale.”

But, after all, it’s the tail wags that really count.

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Owned by three cats over age 13