A Veterinary Medicine Fairy Tale
Baby Oscar, the 8-week-old dachshund puppy, entered his family’s regular veterinary clinic, tail wagging and nose sniffing.
During his first puppy wellness visit, his veterinarian discussed preventive dental care with Oscar’s family. Being a dachshund, Oscar is genetically prone to developing periodontal issues as he ages. Dachshunds are, sadly, a breed with the worst dental health.
During the dental discussion, Oscar’s family jumped in with an exuberant response. “Oh, yes! We brought our little boy home only two days ago, but we’ve already introduced him to tooth brushing. He loves it!”
Oscar’s veterinarian looked at the family in shock. In all his years of preaching about the importance of preventive dental care, he has never had a family tell him they immediately started brushing their puppy’s teeth.
Oscar’s Mom mentioned that the dachshund she had as a child had horrendous dental disease and needed every tooth extracted because of severe infection. She swore that her next dachshund wouldn’t suffer the same fate, and she has enthusiastically tackled preventive dental care for Oscar.
A tear of joy trickled down Oscar’s veterinarian’s face. This is what he has been striving to accomplish through many years of educating pet owners.
Throughout the years, Oscar’s wellness visits revealed beautiful, sparkling white teeth. He never lost a single one, thanks to his preventive, at-home dental care regimen.
Why preventive dental care is important for pets
Unfortunately, too many pet owners wait until there is a problem to start taking care of their pet’s teeth. As new data on the surprising amount of dental disease in pets is discovered, veterinary professionals are working harder to become better advocates for dental care and aiming to prevent issues from occurring.
Plaque accumulates on teeth 20 minutes after a meal, and calcifies into calculus, or tartar, within 48 hours if not removed. Plaque that has hardened into cement-like tartar cannot be removed with simple brushing, and requires more aggressive methods, such as scaling, for removal. If plaque and tartar are left caked on teeth for too long, bacteria leach into the bloodstream, traveling to and damaging the heart, liver, and kidneys. A dirty mouth may not seem like a big deal, but it can harm your pet’s entire body.
When should you start your pet’s preventive dental care?
Now that you understand the importance of preventive, at-home dental care, we would commend you if you ran right out to buy a doggy or kitty toothbrush and toothpaste. The sooner you start preventive dental care, the better.
While puppies and kittens are more amenable to learning new things, old pets can learn new tricks, too. Ideally, you should begin a dental-care regimen as soon as you welcome a pet into your home. Give her time to settle in, and to learn her personality and behavior. Some pets may have had rough lives before adoption and will object to handling, so go slowly and learn to read your new pet’s body language and signals.
How should you start preventive dental care for your pet?
Start slowly. Most pets will object to a foreign item shoved into their mouths—including puppies who willingly pick up everything in their paths. Follow these steps after welcoming your pet home:
- Let your pet become accustomed to your home — Your new pet will be adjusting to a lot of changes, so let her settle in. We recommend that you introduce her to dental care the day after bringing her home, offering her dental chews and treats, and mixing an additive in her water, leaving the more hands-on dental care until later.
- Find your new pet’s favorite treat or toy — Some pets are not motivated by food, and it will take some trial-and-error to see if your new pet enjoys chicken, baby food, cheese, a toy, or a head scratch the best.
- Reward heavily — Once you’ve discovered your pet’s favorite reward, use it to encourage cooperation for tooth brushing or wiping. Not all pets will tolerate tooth brushing—older, adopted pets in particular may be more difficult to convince that tooth brushing brings many rewards, and our top priority is keeping your fingers safe. Dental wipes may be tolerated more than brushing, so see what your new pet safely allows, always rewarding her for good behavior.
For a step-by-step guide on how to brush your pet’s teeth and choose the best dental-care products, check out our tips here. We understand that not every pet will have pearly white teeth, whether due to genetics, a fracture from chewing, or lack of care before you adopted her, but at-home care is a great complement to professional veterinary dental care.
If you need a helping hand with your pet’s dental care, call us. Preventing and treating periodontal disease is our passion.