Dental Care of the Family Pet

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Dental Care of the Family Pet

by Ian J. Haws, DVM. FAVD, Dip. AVDC

What dental home care and products are recommended?

-the single most effective method of dental home care for dogs and cats is toothbrushing, ideally done once daily using a veterinary toothpaste or gel

-children's toothbrushes with ultrasoft bristles are highly recommended for dogs

-the preferred toothbrushing method is the "Bass" method or sulcular cleansing method

-contrary to the old saying, it is possible to teach old dogs new tricks

-one of the most effective designs for cats is the human interdental Proxabrush with fine bristles that can enter the pocket around each tooth

-the toothbrush is placed parallel to the gumline so the bristles will enter each pocket to help remove plaque

-praise and treats are helpful during training

-for canine and feline patients that are intractable for daily toothbrushing, daily application of an antibacterial gel along the gumline from a squeeze bottle is advisable

-rubber chew toys are advisable for dogs to help remove supragingival plaque through mechanical abrasion, provided they are large and strong enough they will not be ingested

-non-compressed rawhide chews are also recommended for dogs to help remove supragingival plaque

-rawhide products with hexametaphosphate (HMP) coating have been shown to reduce calculus formation better than plain rawhide chews in clinical trials for dogs

-edible chew with an antibacterial enzyme system are recommended to help remove supragingival plaque in cats

-dry foods are recommended over canned foods for dogs and cats as their mechanical abraisive properties remove some plaque and tartar above the gumline

-some dry foods have been formulated that have better mechanical cleaning properties than other dry foods

-more recently introduced dry foods have incorporated an HMP coating to help reduce tartar formation.  These are superior to dry foods that rely upon mechanical abrasion for dogs and cats that do not chew their food.

What dental home care products are NOT recommended?

-the general rule should be to only give chew toys or products that you are able to bend or break with your bare hands, to help prevent dental fracture for dogs.  Also, you should always carefully supervise your pet when offering a new product.

-the list of dental home care products NOT recommended for dogs is endless:

  • pet stores and grocery stores carry many products that can result in dental fractures even though they are commonly promoted for dental care by the manufacturer
  • avoid all real cow bones, nylon bones and toys, hard plastic chew toys, cow hooves and pigs' ears
  • some edible compressed vegetable products are also not advisable due to the risk of dental fracture, especially when dried out
  • chicken bones may ben ingested and cause gastrointestinal obstruction or laceration
  • smoked pigs' ears may be very dense resulting in dental fracture, and they can also be a source of Salmonella infection
  • do not give ice cubes to dogs as they can cause dental fractures
  • discourage dogs from picking up rocks
  • exceptions to the above rule are rope toys which you can bend with your bare hands but are not recommended as they can result in gum lacerations and possible dental fractures from torque on canine teeth.  Also, tennis balls are not recommended as the felt on the surface can cause considerable dental wear.  Also, depending on the size of the dog, they are occasionally swallowed.  It is better to give dogs rubber balls without a felt covering that are large enough they will not be swallowed.
  • human toothpastes are not recommended as these are not designed to be swallowed, unlike veterinary toothpastes.  Human toothpastes can cause vomition when swallowed due to the presence of detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfate.  From a practical standpoint, most pets do not prefer the taste of human toothpastes.