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3 dental care hacks to boost your pet’s oral health

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German Shepherd getting oral cleaning by veterinarian
Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Feb 04 2016

Updated February 18, 2019.

Think about all the work that you put into your own teeth: you brush twice a day, you floss (or you should be flossing) and you might even use a fluoride rinse every night. Even with all that work, you still see a dentist for an evaluation and full cleaning.

Now think about the work you put into your pet’s oral health. I’m guessing that it’s drastically different from your own, but it shouldn’t be. Your pet’s oral health is as important to his overall health as yours is. I know brushing your pet’s teeth is a drag, but it’s a necessary chore to reduce the risks of periodontal disease and cavities. Daily brushing is best, but if that’s not realistic, brushing every other day at the very least will help, too.

There are three, more “hands-off” pet dental care hacks you can (and should!) incorporate that will also help reduce the buildup of disease-causing tartar. Incorporating these three easy options will pay off in a healthier mouth and healthier pet.

Dental diets

Prescription dental diets are formulated with the perfect size, shape and composition to provide a mechanically active way to physically deal with plaque and tartar. When your dog or cat crunches on the kibble, it scrapes the teeth, keeping plaque and tartar at bay. You have to feed your pet, anyway – you may as well help her teeth while doing so!

Dental chews

Dental chews come in two forms: edible (meaning they’re meant to be consumed) and inedible (meaning they’re meant just for chewing). These treats and chews work much like dental diets in that they remove plaque physically. Some chews contain enzymes that help fight the buildup of plaque and tartar, too.

When choosing a dental chew, remember to choose the appropriately-sized chew. Products like Virbac C.E.T® chews and Greenies™ come in different sizes depending on the size of your pet. Giving the wrong size can be dangerous for your pet.

Water additives

Adding plaque-reducing supplements to your pet’s water is an easy way to aid his dental health. It’s just one extra step to add the product to the water bowl, which you fill daily anyway!

Now, there are two important caveats to these three easy options:

First, never start any new home dental care regime on a pet who has pre-existing dental disease. None of these wonderful options are miracle workers, and trying to brush tartar-laden teeth or feeding a dental diet to a pet with an already painful mouth is cruel. Nothing you can do at home will replace the need for a comprehensive oral exam and treatment by your veterinarian. Let your pet’s doctor address her oral health first, and go from there. The options listed above are for maintaining good oral health, not attaining it.

Secondly, make sure the product is accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council®. The pet product industry is a multi-million dollar market. There are so many products on the shelves that don’t work, and it’s hard to know what to look for, even as a veterinarian. That’s why I let someone smarter than me do all the work. The folks at The Veterinary Oral Health Council have reviewed the data from clinical trials and compiled a list of products that meet pre-set standards for plaque and tartar control. If a product doesn’t have a VOHC seal of approval, I know to look elsewhere.

Maintaining good oral health after your pet’s dental cleaning may seem like just one more chore, but with these pet dental health hacks, you can see that it’s not so bad after all. While these easy options are not a substitute for veterinary dental care, when combined with brushing at home, they can extend the time between cleanings and contribute to a healthier mouth and a healthier pet!