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Posted on 02-10-2016
Did you know that February is Pet Dental Health Month?
In honor of that, I thought I’d start my (ever) first blog discussing home care for your pet’s teeth.
The goal of dental home care is to prevent the slow, what I call “run of the mill” dental disease. Specifically, managing the accumulation of plaque causing bacteria and the progression to tartar buildup, gum disease and periodontal disease.
Do’s of brushing:
Don’t of brushing:
The question often comes up, “Is there any toy, treat or other product which can replace brushing?”
The simple answer to the question is “NO!” The slick marketers want you to believe that to be true but it’s at your pet’s peril. Just ask your dentist if there’s anything you could chew on that could replace your toothbrush.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t any good products which can assist in maintaining good dental health. Although these are mostly useful as adjuncts to brushing, they can be helpful especially for those pets who will not permit tooth brushing.
When I go to the pet stores, I see a lot of products which make a lot of claims. Buyer beware!. Most of these products have absolutely no scientific verification of their claims. Fortunately, there is a program which validates veterinary dental health products (http://vohc.org/accepted_products.htm). When you’re reviewing these products, pay special attention to the VOHC claim. It’s always preferable to choose a product which has a plaque claim, even if it doesn’t have a tartar claim. Products without a plaque claim must be considered inferior to those with a tartar claim only. Please ensure that you are using these products according to their manufacturer instructions.
And what about bones, antlers and hard plastic bones?
It seems so natural for us to give our pets (especially dogs) bones to chew on and unquestionably it’s a normal thing for a dog to want to do.
At risk of riding the fence on this one, I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. Although I can’t direct you to any studies showing that dogs who chew on bones have cleaner teeth, I think it’s quite likely that bones and antlers do help to prevent plaque and tartar accumulation.
I like to invoke Newton’s Third Law of motion which states “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Which means that that whatever force your dog applies to the bone/antler, that force is being applied right back on the tooth. If your dog is chewing on these items, they are at risk of fracturing and bruising teeth. Bruised teeth are at risk of pulpitis (http://www.dentistvet.com/discolored-teeth-pulpitis.html). Fractured teeth with pulp cavity exposure is painful and by definition it’s infected even if there’s no associated abscess (http://www.dentistvet.com/tooth-breaks-and-fractures.html). In either of these scenarios, either root canal therapy or extraction is necessary. It’s not appropriate to leave these conditions fester.
I really like Kong products for their relative durability, safety and enjoyability (https://www.kongcompany.com/).
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