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Serving the Outer Banks of North Carolina and portions of Currituck County
If you could prevent chronic pain and disease in a minute a day, you’d do it, right? Wouldn’t that be a fabulous use of that minute? Brushing your pet’s teeth effectively takes about a minute a day, and can save him a lifetime of pain (and save you some money as well)! Many people don’t realize that dogs and cats get periodontal disease. Periodontal disease isn’t just “dirty teeth.” It is truly a disease that destroys the gum and bone surrounding teeth. When people get it, they are often in pain and see their dentists regularly for treatment. When dogs and cats get it, they are in pain too! Unfortunately for them, most owners don’t seek out medical attention for this problem. Why? One simple reason: the owners don’t realize there is anything wrong! Dogs and cats aren’t complainers, they’re adapters. Something happens, they adapt. If they’re in chronic pain (day in day out, 24/7 pain!), they’ll still eat, because really, what choice do they have? If they don’t eat, they’ll starve and die (or so their instincts tell them). They may play less, they may not have the enthusiasm for their food that they used to, they may interact less with their owners and housemates, but it takes a tremendous amount of oral pain to make a dog or cat stop eating. I have seen animals with abscessed teeth and broken jaws (secondary to periodontal disease, not from trauma!) and raw bleeding gums still eat! Those animals NEED dental surgery to remove those nasty ugly teeth and diseased tissue. It’s their only hope of having a pain free mouth. How often does this happen? Statistics say that 75% of dogs and cats over 4 years of age have some periodontal disease going on. I will tell you that this is the most common disease that I see. I see it every single day. If you have a little white fluffy dog or a yorkie, I expect 100% of those dogs to have significant periodontal disease by the time they’re 4 years old. To get their mouths back to health and comfort, I frequently have to pull large numbers of teeth at this young age in these dogs. Wow! If you have a greyhound or a short nosed beauty like a bulldog or Persian, you can expect periodontal disease early. Some dogs and cats are very lucky, tooth-wise, but why take the chance? Daily tooth brushing can prevent a lot of these problems! Think of it, one minute a day to prevent disease and pain! There are several important points in this statement. First, tooth brushing PREVENTS disease, it does not FIX it. If your pet has periodontal disease already, then that needs to be dealt with first. Do not put a toothbrush in a diseased mouth. That is not kind and won’t do a thing except cause more problems. Second, DAILY tooth brushing is the way to go. You brush your teeth daily, don’t you? You want to get rid of that slimy buildup (technically the plaque and biofilm) in your own mouth that causes morning breath. That biofilm is easiest to remove. Brush it off before it hardens to tartar. Many people tell me that the groomer is in charge of tooth brushing. If you brushed your teeth once every month to six weeks, what do you think would happen? Getting owner and pet alike in a daily maintenance routine tremendously increases your chance of success. Ask me for more details on how to brush your pet’s teeth. It’s actually pretty easy with the right procedure. First off: bribery is good. I mean this very sincerely. You want your pet to associate tooth brushing with good things. So get a piece of something yummy (a pet-safe treat, please!). It should be something he REALLY likes. It doesn’t have to be a large piece. Give him a taste of the toothpaste. Pet-safe toothpastes are flavored and meant to be swallowed. Cooper prefers CET poultry flavor. Do not use your toothpaste. Get the toothbrush you’re planning to use (or if you’re worried, just use your index finger for now). Put a dab of toothpaste on your finger or brush. In a comfortable area lift his upper lip, and touch a tooth with the paste. I don’t care which tooth you choose, but the fang teeth are the easiest to access, so that’s where I start. Tell him he’s fabulous and give him the treat. The idea is to stop before he gets upset. Repeat throughout the day. Gradually work up to brushing all of the teeth, aiming for the gum line. You do not have to do the inside of the teeth. Do yourself a favor: brush his teeth in the same place and at the same time, if you can swing it. Cooper reminds me to brush his teeth every morning. He follows me into the bathroom when I brush my own teeth and waits expectantly. I brush his teeth after I brush my teeth. He gets a cookie. I don’t. Alas.