Maintaining Healthy Gums in Cats and Dogs

Author: Tracy Reis, DVM

Both cats and dogs need regular dental care to maintain healthy teeth and gums or else dental disease can occur. Plaque build-up is a combination of bacteria and tartar. Excessive plaque can lead to painful periodontal disease, and the bacteria can travel to other organs, causing serious health problems. More than 85% of dogs and cats over the age of four have periodontal disease. So what do you do to prevent your pet from becoming one of the statistics?

There are several signs to watch for to keep on top of your pet’s gum health. Be aware of the signs of periodontal disease in your pet. These include bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating hard food, rubbing the face or swelling below the eye (which can indicate a tooth root abscess), avoiding having the face touched or even changes in behavior. You should check your pet’s teeth regularly for brown or irregular stains and bleeding gums. The best way to avoid your pet developing severe dental disease is preventative care.

There are several factors that contribute to dental disease such as poor nutrition, breed, age, teeth arrangement and general health. Some of these factors can be improved by the owner, such as providing a higher quality diet and brushing the teeth regularly. However, other factors are genetic and these pets will need dental care more frequently.

One of the things that the pet owner can do is brush the teeth using pet-safe toothpaste, since human toothpaste can be harmful. Most pets will adjust to this, and it should be done for at least 30 seconds on each side at least every other day. There are special toothbrushes available at most pet stores. If you are afraid that your pet could bite you, there are dental approved treats also available at most pet stores or your veterinary hospital. These are not as effective as brushing, but will help remove at least some of the plaque present. 

Every pet should have a thorough oral exam by a veterinarian at least once a year. Dental x-rays for pets have become readily available to check for bone loss, tumors and advanced periodontal disease. Most pets are sedated for this procedure as well as for cleaning, polishing and any extractions. While most pets need their teeth cleaned by a veterinarian periodically to maintain optimal oral health, there are some natural products that can help to reduce the frequency of cleaning.

There are some natural remedies available that can decrease the amount of professional dental care required by promoting healthy gums. There are natural herbs such as Spirulina, Horsetail and Dandelion to promote healthy, strong teeth and gums. There are also several homeopathic remedies that also promote overall health as well as oral health. These include Silica, Calc flor and Calc Phos. There are different strengths of homeopathic remedies, so always consult with someone knowledgeable in homeopathy.

Natural remedies are easy to give, but you should do research for the best products and consult a holistic veterinarian if your pet has any other health problems or is on medication.

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