Don't brush off pet dental care - Dr. Marty Becker

Don’t brush off pet dental care

Wednesday, Dec 14th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Although my wife, Teresa, is the toothbrusher-in-chief in our house, I know the importance of pet dental care. I share my views with a reader who wrote me about her Greyhound.

Q: I have a greyhound, and I know from past experience that they get a lot of tartar buildup. What’s the best way to care for her teeth?

A: You’re not alone. Greyhounds, cavalier King Charles spaniels and other toy breeds, and many other dogs have a strong tendency toward periodontal disease. By the time they are 2 to 3 years old, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some level of dental disease, and it only gets worse throughout life if they don’t get good home care and regular professional cleanings. Nasty breath that could knock a horse over isn’t normal; here are some things you can do to prevent it and keep your dog’s mouth healthy.

I say this all the time: Brush your dog’s teeth every day. If you’re not sure how, ask your veterinarian for a demo. Using a soft-bristled brush or even just some gauze held at a 45-degree angle to the tooth, clean the teeth with a circular motion. Use flavored pet toothpaste to improve your greyhound’s acceptance of the process. Avoid using toothpaste made for people; it contains ingredients that can upset your dog’s stomach, since she swallows instead of spits.

If your dog is reluctant, do one tooth, praise her and give a treat. Come back later and do another one, followed by praise and a treat. A dental chew or treat serves double duty by rewarding your dog and working to remove plaque or prevent it from developing into tartar. Eventually, your dog should come to accept having all of her teeth brushed at once.

Some dogs are not good candidates for teeth brushing. If that’s the case with your dog, ask your veterinarian about dental chews, sealants and other products that may help prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

There’s more, including our recommendations for some great cat books, in this week’s Pet Connection!