Veterinarians and pet owners all over will celebrate Pet Dental Health Month in February. This annual event highlights a really important aspect of pets’ overall health — dental health — and many vets offer discounts during the month to encourage people to bring their pets in for an examination and cleaning. If you’d like to help encourage your pet’s dental health, here are nine ways that you can celebrate Pet Dental Health Month:
Get their mouth examined annually
Younger dogs should have their mouths professionally examined and cleaned at least once a year. Older pets should get examined twice a year due to their increased propensity for health issues. Usually, veterinarians will perform an oral exam as part of the overall physical exam. If you haven’t scheduled one yet for this year, then doing it during national Pet Dental Health Month is a great time to check it off the list!
Brush their teeth often
Ideally, you should be brushing your pet’s teeth daily, or even twice a day — but in practice, this is hard to achieve. At a minimum, try to aim for three brushings a week if at all possible to ward off plaque and tartar buildup. For best results, brush their teeth in a calm and quiet environment that won’t further distress your pet. Make sure to keep the toothbrushing sessions short and sweet to create positive associations in your pet’s mind.
Introduce them to toothbrushes slowly
Brushing your pet’s teeth is easier said than done. Many dogs and cats do not take to toothbrushes naturally and must be slowly introduced to them. Start by putting your finger in their mouth and massaging their gums. You can dip your finger in broth or peanut butter to make it more palatable. Once your pet will tolerate your finger without distress, then you can add pet-safe toothpaste (more on that in the next section) instead. Finally, you can swap your finger for a specially designed pet toothbrush.
Choose a pet-safe toothpaste
Speaking of toothpaste, you should never brush your pet’s teeth using a toothpaste meant for humans or with baking soda. Human toothpaste can cause digestive issues in your pet if accidentally swallowed. So can baking soda, which is highly alkaline and will upset the stomach’s acid balance. Instead, choose a pet-safe toothpaste that is specifically formulated for dogs or cats. These pet toothpaste won’t cause issues if swallowed and also come in delicious flavors that will make your pet more willing to have their teeth brushed.
Give them a dental chew
Besides teeth brushing, dental chews are another excellent way to supplement your pet’s oral health. To your pet, they seem like just another treat. They have no idea that their delicious new chew is actually cleaning their teeth as they chomp down on it. Look for bully sticks for dogs, dental sticks for cats, and other dental chews that are specifically designed to keep your pet’s teeth clean. Remember that an ordinary treat won’t cut it — you need one that is specifically designed to provide dental health benefits.
Know the signs of dental health problems
Sometimes your pet will develop a dental condition in between their regular annual exam. That’s why it’s so important to know the signs of a possible dental disease, which include:
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Yellow or brown teeth
- Swelling in the face, mouth, or gums
- Pain or tenderness around the mouth
- Broken or loose teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Issues with chewing or dropping food while eating
- Bumps, sores, or discoloration in or near the mouth and gums
If you notice any of these signs of dental issues, contact your veterinarian right away to get your pet in for another exam.
Help them stay hydrated
Staying hydrated promotes your pet’s overall health, including their dental health. Make sure that your pets have easily accessible water bowls, and refresh the water daily. Periodically clean their water bowls about once a week so that they do not harbor bacteria, mold, and other nasties. You may also consider putting pet water additives in your pet’s bowl, which can help freshen their breath and further contribute to mouth health. These water additives aren’t a replacement for other dental care, but they can be a nice supplement to a comprehensive oral health plan.
Double-check their food
While we’re on the subject of supplementing your pet’s oral health, you should also check their food as well. Food provides essential nutrients that support your pet’s health, and the physical act of eating also scours their teeth. You may also wish to look into additional dietary supplements to support their overall health, such as collagen chews for dogs and liquid supplements for cats. Talk to your veterinarian if you think you might need to switch your pet’s food or add a dietary supplement to support their overall health.
Educate fellow owners about dental health
Being an advocate for all animals’ dental health is an excellent way to celebrate Pet Dental Health Month. Beyond caring for your own pets’ health, you can also help to educate your friends and family about the importance of good dental health for pets and encourage them to take the other steps on this list. Many veterinarians offer discounts in honor of Dental Health Month, so don’t forget to remind your loved ones to check with their vet to see if they can get a discount during February.
Pet Dental Health Month is a great opportunity to check in about your pet’s dental health and make sure they are staying happy and healthy. However, it’s still important to remember that dental care is a daily journey that lasts all year. You can’t just forget about it after February! Follow these tips to keep your pet’s teeth and mouth healthy all year round.