How Often Does My Cat/Dog Need Dental Cleaning?

Many pet owners are unaware that pets can develop the same dental problems as humans. Oral issues like gingivitis, tooth decay and loss, and excess tartar are common issues that pets can also sustain when their teeth arenโ€™t cleaned.

Poor dental care for our pets causes multiple problems. Pets can easily experience dental disease by the age of two, and it can lead to extreme pain that causes your pet to stop eating or lose its teeth.

Our dogs and cats need healthy gums and teeth, and it is up to you as your petโ€™s owner to provide the proper oral care. If you donโ€™t know what is expected or how to take care of your petโ€™s oral health, read on to discover more about dental care as a pet owner.

cute dog sitting on blue surface

How Often You Should Clean Your Petโ€™s Teeth

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), to prevent serious dental diseases, it is recommended that your pet receive regular oral exams and dental cleanings. Therefore, when you take your pet to the vet for its annual physical, you should discuss it with your veterinarian or ask if they will examine your petโ€™s teeth and gums to look for signs of any oral problems. 

Based on your dog or catโ€™s health, your vet might recommend that you perform cleanings anywhere from a couple of times a week to just once a month. If you have the option, you should take your pet for professional dental cleaning once per year.

What Happens During a Dental Cleaning for a Pet?

Dental cleanings for pets vary, but most of them are performed with your pet under general anesthesia. It allows the vet to safely and thoroughly clean your petโ€™s teeth without giving your pet any stress or discomfort.

The dental cleaning includes a process to remove tartar and plaque, called scaling, and then a polish so that your petโ€™s teeth will be more resistant to plaque and tartar buildup. It is similar to the process that a dental hygienist would perform for a humanโ€™s teeth cleaning.

The vet may want to obtain x-rays of your petโ€™s teeth to access areas that canโ€™t be seen, such as your petโ€™s jaw and roots. Identification of any dental disease can be located in those places. It is also possible the vet will want to order bloodwork or do minor surgeries, like tooth extraction, if necessary.

Signs Your Pet Needs Dental Care

There are plenty of symptoms or signs that indicate having your petโ€™s teeth examined. Some things to watch out for and contact your vet promptly include:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolored teeth
  • Buildup on teeth
  • Cracked, loose, or missing teeth
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Inability to eat or is slowly chewing food 

How Do I Clean my Petโ€™s Teeth?

When cleaning your petโ€™s teeth at home, you should first understand that your pet will not willingly let you brush or check its mouth. Therefore, you need to create a comfortable and calm environment for your pet to understand the process. 

Follow these steps to care for your petโ€™s teeth at home properly:

  • Touch your pet’s mouth. Try to massage your pet’s teeth and gums lying down or when it’s in a submissive position. Do this every day or at least a few times a week before you do actual brushing. Your pet will need at least a few weeks to get accustomed to it and be ready for cleaning.
  • Get all your supplies together. Regular toothpaste can upset a petโ€™s stomach, so look for pet-specific toothpaste and toothbrushes. The toothbrush should have a softer bristle. If you donโ€™t have a toothbrush, you can use some gauze or a cotton swab.
  • Have your pet taste a tiny amount of toothpaste. If your pet takes it and eats it, reward with a treat. Do this a few times before you introduce the toothbrush. Next, put some toothpaste on the brush and have your pet lick it; then again, reward with a treat.
  • Now you are ready to brush! Clean your petโ€™s teeth in short intervals, stopping every ten seconds or so, and just move the brush or cotton swab in circular motions on the outside of the teeth and around the gumline. Speak calmly to your pet and continue to praise it for doing a good job.

The brushing itself should only last about a minute, keeping it simple and quick. If you sense that your pet is panicking or feeling uncomfortable, stop and try another day or time again. You do not want your pet to associate its teeth cleaning with a negative experience, or they will never relax for you.

Pets That Wonโ€™t Let You Clean Their Teeth

If you have tried all of the steps and your pet still will not let you touch its mouth or brush its teeth, there are some alternatives that you can do. For instance, get online vet help from a professional who can give you other techniques and tactics to ensure that your pet receives a regular tooth cleaning.

You can also purchase dental care products, such as a food or water additive or dental chews. Talk to your veterinarian if you want information on products they recommend to work the best for your pet.

Take Care of Your Petโ€™s Teeth

You must be aware of dental problems with your pet. Those dental issues can lead to more severe health problems if left untreated. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet may be suffering.

The better that you properly care for your pet, the healthier it will be. We all look at our pets as family members and want what is best for them to live long and happy lives with us at home.

Krystal | Sunny Sweet Days
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