Brush, chew, and chomp: Canine and feline dental home care tips for your clients
By taking proactive steps to maintain their pets’ dental health, pet parents can significantly contribute to their pets’ overall health and happiness.
Pet parents want the best for their pet, and a healthy dog or cat starts with healthy teeth. You are your clients’ most trusted source of evidence-based recommendations to help them keep their pets’ oral health at its best. Here are some client-friendly primers on the importance of home care and regular prophylactic dental care from you that can serve as good conversation starters or even be copied and pasted into your discharge instructions for your clients.
While healthy teeth and gums are key to a nice smile and fresh breath, they also play a crucial role in a pet’s wellbeing, comfort, and overall physical health.
With regular at-home dental care and periodic dental cleanings from a veterinarian, we can help prevent or reduce dental diseases such as periodontal disease and gingivitis in dogs and cats.
How can you help pet parents support their pet’s dental health?
Every pet should have their annual dental veterinary checkup, and tooth brushing is one of the most effective things that pet parents can do at home to maintain their pet's oral health. While brushing is the best at-home dental care option, the reality for our pets is that less than 10% of pet owners can brush their dog or cat’s teeth daily.1 On top of this, only 14% of dogs receive annual dental care by a veterinarian.2 This lack of proper dental care really adds up, with 70% of pets now suffering from periodontal disease.3 Without treatment, periodontal disease can have a serious impact on pets’ general health, including issues such tooth loss, mouth pain, and even serious health problems in other parts of their body.
What are alternate at-home options?
Dental chews and treats can be a great alternative that avoids the stress of tooth brushing. Most pet parents love giving their pets treats every single day,4 making dental treats an easy and delicious dental care solution. When scientifically designed and tested, daily dental chews and treats have the potential to keep plaque and tartar buildup to a minimum, supporting gum health and freshening breath. This helps pet parents stay on top of their pet’s oral health.
What makes a great dog dental chew?
A dental chew is a supplementary treat that helps improve the health of a dog’s teeth, gums, and breath by mechanically scraping and abrading the plaque off their teeth as they chew for a long time, like a toothbrush. As a species-specific natural behavior, chewing is something most dogs love to do with the added benefit of helping clean their teeth, even in those hard-to-reach places.
Tips for finding the right dental chew
Look for a natural dental chew that delivers a longer chewing time (leading to more cleaning), and one that carries the Veterinary Oral Health Council's (VOHC) seal for both plaque and tartar. This VOHC certification means that the chew’s efficacy has been scientifically studied and proven to promote optimal dental benefits.
How to support a cat’s dental health
While dogs love to gnaw a dental chew, cats prefer a tasty crunchy treat for supporting their dental health. Designed with a porous crunchy texture that enables their teeth to sink into each treat, cat dental treats work like a toothbrush to mechanically clean their teeth as they chew to prevent common components of periodontal disease: tartar, gingivitis, and halitosis (bad breath).
How can we as veterinarians support pet parents? By reminding them that dental home care is most effective when starting early and continuing it often—and it’s never too late to start.
Written by Danielle Bernal, BVSc, MRCVS, Global Veterinarian, Wellness Pet Company
2. Veterinary Pet Insurance. Brush up on your pet’s oral care. http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/pet-articles/pet-dental-care/Brush-Up-on-Your-Pets-Oral-Care.aspx.
3. World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dental Guidelines JSAP2020; 61:E50
4. Suzy Pet Treating Survey. Data on File.