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Brushing a dog's teeth maintains luster & life

Cottonwood Journal Extra of Cottonwood, Arizona

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Paws Around Town

National Pet Dental Health Month is a wonderful time to hone up on your pet dental health skills. Without conscious care and maintenance, most dogs develop gum disease by the time they are 4 years old.

We've come to expect that our pets will need dental cleanings under anesthesia every year or two.

While home care is not a replacement for regular dental checkups and cleanings, a good dental routine can keep down plaque, tartar and oral bacteria, making necessary cleanings much less frequent.

Start off with a clean mouth. Whenever you take your dog or cat to the vet, make sure to include a complete oral check up; teeth, gums, tongue — including under the tongue — inside the cheeks and the roof of the mouth. If your pet already has a sore mouth or inflamed gums, it's probably time to discuss with your veterinarian.

Light tartar with relatively healthy teeth and gums can often be tackled at home with diligent brushing, enzymatic gels or sprays, chewies and natural water or food additives.

Bad breath can also be caused by digestive issues so if you're seeing clean teeth and gums but smelling bad breath, you may need to consider changing food or adding a digestive supplement or pre/pro-biotic and getting an overall checkup for your pet.

Chewing helps scrape off some of the plaque and calculus on the teeth and at the gum line but it doesn't tackle between the teeth where bacteria can build up.

There are several good, natural oral hygiene water and food additives available.

I keep trying to find the perfect one, free of any controversial ingredients and am now leaning towards the enzymatic additives that boost and restore saliva's natural balance.

Winnie is 12 years old. She has Cushing's syndrome and some age-related issues but her teeth are sparkly white, breath clean and her gums strong. Winnie has had only one dental cleaning in her life. She broke a tooth when she was 5 years old and it had to be extracted, so while she was under anesthesia, we had her teeth cleaned and they glistened. They still do.

Winnie loves to chew. She gets a partial bully stick, tendon or small cow ear every night.

She is on a strict grain-free diet so we steer away from anything other than natural and organic all-meat chews.

Check the ingredients when you purchase dental treats just as you would food.

Many contain rice flour, which is not an inherently bad ingredient but can cause reaction in grain-allergic pets.

Rice flour is often sourced from China so make sure you know and understand the purchasing policy of any company that supplies you with food, treats and supplements including dental chews.

I stay clear of hard dental treats that break off in chunks. Many dogs swallow the chunks whole which defeats the purpose and can cause digestive upset.

Often, dogs or cats will chew on one side of their mouth only. Sit with your pet and hold the chew, slowly moving it from one side to the other. Eventually, most will learn to chew on both sides over time. Some dogs, often little ones, need ongoing encouragement. All this, of course, assumes you have a relationship with your pet that allows you to hold on to its chewie without risk.

Brushing your pet's teeth is a good solution to oral hygiene. It takes some practice and diligence but most dogs really do learn to enjoy it Start slowly with the front teeth until they get accustomed to the strange sensation.

My dogs like vanilla tooth paste as much as they do the poultry or beef which tend to contain yucky animal digests.

Brushing is well worth the effort and I've been surprised to find how many dogs actually like it once they are used to the routine.

Cats tend to be less pleased about tooth brushing but I've known people with cats who seem quite content and willing.

As with people, some animals have more of a tendency to dental problems than others. I've known dogs, particularly little ones, that get plaque and tartar despite brushing and diligent care They need more frequent cleanings but the in-between care goes a long way toward keeping their mouths healthy.

The risk of dental disease increases as pets age.

Routine dental care is important to reduce plaque, which leads to tartar and gum disease, which then leads to all sorts of health problems from toxins being absorbed into the bloodstream.

Remember that an oral hygiene program for your pet should include checkups to make sure what you're doing is working.

Paws Around Town was written this week by Nadia Caillou, an animal care specialist and co-owner of a pet store in Sedona. She is the founder of Golden Bone Rescue and Rehab and has over 30 years experience helping distressed animals and helping pet owners, shelters and pounds overcome problem behavior in animals.

Copyright 2015 Cottonwood Journal Extra, Cottonwood, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: January 28, 2015

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