To focus attention on the importance of dental health in the overall wellbeing of pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association has designated every February as National Pet Dental Health Month.

Here are some tips to maintain your pet’s dental health from Blue Door Vet, a full service mobile veterinary hospital serving the Portland area.

First, it’s important to remember that your pet can’t brush their own teeth or floss, luxuries we have if something becomes lodged, or as a way to remove bacteria. And since most dental disease occurs below the gum line, where it can’t be seen, it’s important to have your full service veterinarian examine your fur baby’s teeth regularly, and to get professional dental cleanings, to avoid damage in the tissues connecting the teeth and jaw.

What can you do in between these visits? The single most effective thing is to brush their teeth – and if you can do it three times a week (or more), that’s terrific! If you’re not sure how, the veterinarians and staff at Blue Door Veterinary Hospital can share some good techniques.

And if your dog or cat doesn’t get adequate dental care? The AVMA estimates that about 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease by age three.

What should you look for? These are all signs of possible dental disease:

            Redness in the gums

            Bad breath

            Loose, broken or discolored teeth

            Tenderness around the mouth and/or teeth

            Drooling or dropping food

            Bleeding from the mouth

            Loss of appetite/weight loss

On an ongoing basis, you should clean your pet’s water dish with soap and water at least three times each week to get rid of the microbes found in dust, food debris and saliva to get rid of biofilm, according to the pros from veterinary hospital Blue Door Vet.

Consider switching to a rotational diet. Dogs with a narrow diet can start to have allergies and have a less diverse oral and gut microbiome. Diversity in the microbiome strongly correlates with health and less inflammation. Also beware of carbohydrates found in dental treats, foods and even a raw diet. These carbohydrates are sugars and fuel disease-causing bacteria. 

And while you may believe that crunchy kibble keeps dogs’ teeth clean and removes plaque, unless a dry food brand is specifically designed and formulated for dental health, it won’t add any real benefit and fragments of food can get pushed and lodged into the gums, according to the team at the veterinary hospital Blue Door Vet.

Don’t forget – dogs don’t need to chew to eat – they gnaw, and that means rubber toys can also be a great assist for at-home dental care. And if you’re feeding your pet a homemade diet, make sure it’s nutritionally balanced and contains a mix of fresh vegetables, lean protein, leafy greens, and vitamins and minerals.

Other at-home options like oral care water additives can help prevent tartar buildup and improve dental hygiene and herbs like fennel, parsley, and dill also promote dental hygiene and fresh breath and can be added to your dog’s regular meals

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