Natural Dental Care For Dogs And Cats
by Jane Bicks, DVM
Your pet’s health – including their oral health – is the best reason to experience Life’s Abundance natural pet products. There are many things you need to know when bringing home a new pet, whether it’s a puppy or kitten, or an old timer. In this article, we’ll focus on an important aspect of pet health … our pets’ mouths. It’s time to get hip to what’s going on with the teeth and gums of the animal world. Periodontal disease in particular is quite common, especially in older pets, though it is not the only dental problem animals face. Contrary to popular belief, dental disease doesn’t just affect our older pets, but puppies and kittens, too, have suffering mouths. Dental disease is a combination of genetics and lack of education on the part of pet owners. Here we focus on different types of dental disease, what to look out for and ways to help care for our pets’ marvelous mouths.
The Most Common Dental Dog and Cat-astrophes
Pet owners are notorious for getting into the habit of dental hygiene midway through their pets’ time on this earth. Dental hygiene is a hard practice to break into late in the game … not only for owners, but for the pets, especially cats. Dental hygiene should start at the very beginning, even when teeth look as tiny as thorns.
By 6-8 weeks of age, your dog’s or cat’s baby teeth should already be a part of the mouth’s landscape. Baby teeth are incredibly fragile. Not only are they thin, but they are not strongly anchored into the gum because the bones there are not developed enough. Combined with that, younger pets are especially awkward as they’re still learning to navigate their limbs and understand their bodies’ limitations. Much of the traumatic damage they do to their teeth can be self-inflicted … falling or bumping into doors and walls and chewing hard objects. Believe it or not, broken teeth are not always that obvious. They can often result in a gum boil, an infection that manifests in the form of a draining abscess. If any gum boils are detected, a veterinarian would immediately extract any broken teeth.
Even well-meaning owners can damage immature teeth by giving young pets hard bones, sticks and other detrimental objects. For young pets, hard objects and games of tug-of-war should be avoided at all costs. Pulling can fracture or yank their fang teeth out of position. This can also affect the progress of their adult teeth, which are developing under the gum where the baby fangs are located. Damage by pulling can cause the adult teeth to erupt from the gum improperly and cause damage to the mouth’s soft tissue.
The Eruption of Adult Teeth
By 16-24 weeks of age, baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth. This isn’t always a smooth transition. The second most common dental problem that occurs in young pets is malocclusion or improper eruption of adult teeth. There are two major reasons why this occurs:
1) trauma to the baby teeth (especially by harsh pulling), which we already mentioned
2) persistent baby teeth that refuse to drop from the gum. The budding adult tooth is supposed to erupt directly under the root of the baby tooth, causing it to break down and allow the adult tooth to push it out. Sometimes, the adult tooth is not directly positioned under the baby tooth, causing the permanent tooth to grow alongside the baby tooth. This mal-positioning causes trauma to the soft tissue, subsequent infection and plenty of pain.
Food also gets trapped between the two teeth and it’s extremely hard to get out, which can lead to gum infections. Any double presence of teeth should be corrected immediately by a veterinarian. If you see an adult tooth growing alongside a baby tooth, don’t just wait around to see if the baby tooth drops out. All you’ll be awaiting for is disaster.
Okay, so your pet is now officially an adult, but you’re not out of the woods yet. Periodontal disease is the number one disease that affects our pets’ mouths after they turn two years of age. Eighty-five percent of dogs two years of age and older have periodontal disease. It’s much more insidious than the other diseases because it affects more than just the teeth and soft tissue. It can destroy all of the supporting structures of the mouth. The infection can also seep into the bloodstream affecting other parts of the body and making a pet ill.
Bad breath is one of the most obvious indicators that something is wrong. Unfortunately, most pet owners are used to bad doggy or kitty breath when, in fact, bad breath is simply not normal. In the earlier stages of periodontal disease, your veterinarian can reverse the damage by giving the teeth a deep cleaning. But, because we’ve erroneously come to almost expect bad breath, the damage continues.
Periodontal disease takes years to fully manifest. Just like in humans, the slow accumulation of tartar on the teeth turns to plaque, which is essentially a combination of food debris and bacteria. When plaque starts building up on the teeth, it inevitably leads to infected, swollen gums or gingivitis. It all goes downhill from there. Unchecked, periodontal disease will run its painful course. Not only do the gums begin to recede, but the ligaments that clasp the tooth against the jawbone and the bone itself become terribly damaged. Deep wells of infections cause abscesses, bleeding and pain. The later stages of the disease requires the intervention of a dental specialist who has been trained in oral surgery. They must assess the degree of bone destruction with x-rays. If a dental specialist doesn’t get to your pet in time, the final stages of periodontal disease will occur. Due to a destroyed jawbone, your pet will start losing its teeth.
This is a very common oral disease that occurs in 60% of cats. Cat cavities are also known as Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions or FORLS. Normally, lesions start forming after the age of two. Here’s what usually happens … these curious tooth-eating cells called odontoclasts start attacking the teeth at the gum line and then work their way up. The tooth then develops a cavity that is incredibly painful. If this goes untreated, the tooth’s crown snaps off exposing the roots of the tooth to the world, causing irritation and drainage. The gum around that area then becomes so swollen that it starts to take over tooth territory. Scientists still don’t know what causes these tooth-eating odontoclasts. However, there is a higher incidence of cat cavities in cats with moderate periodontal disease. Siamese and oriental cats also have a higher propensity to get the disease. If teeth are severely damaged, they need to be surgically removed to encourage proper healing. The best recommendation vets can give to pet owners for prevention is to brush their cat’s teeth daily.
Warning Signs and Smoke Signals
Many oral diseases get out of hand due to our lack of knowledge on the subject. Sometimes, we’re just not watching our pets closely enough. Below is a chart of some warning signs for the different oral calamities so that you can treat your pet before its too late.
|Problem||Outside Symptom||A Closer Look|
|Broken Baby Teeth||Difficulty eating or holding objects, incessant drooling, weight loss||Bleeding, gum boils, discolored teeth|
|Periodontal Disease||Drops food, paws at its mouth, avoids having its face or head touched, bad breath, weight loss, more reluctant to chew on hard food, tooth loss, sneezing nose bleeds||Bleeding, red gums, abscesses in the gum and jaw bone, deep pockets of infection|
|Cat Cavities||Cat eagerly approaches food then walks away without eating, weigh loss as a result||Gum in certain areas is growing up and into the teeth; upon pressing down on the gum, the pained animal will chatter its teeth and the gum may bleed|
Doing Your Part
Though some oral diseases such as cat cavities are rather mysterious, others aren’t mysterious at all and simply come from neglect. First and foremost, aside from avoiding dangerous chew toys that can break the teeth, it’s important to check your pet’s mouth daily for signs of injury and improperly erupting teeth. Don’t forget that many animals enjoy having their mouths stroked. Turn it into a game of some sort to make it easier for yourself and for them. Aside from this, proper care doesn’t only entail being observant and taking your pet to the vet at the slightest provocation, it also means rolling up your sleeves and telling your pet to say “aaaah.”
Let’s put it this way, we brush our own teeth several times a day to avoid cavities, plaque, bad breath and gingivitis. Is it too much to brush our pets’ teeth a few times a week? Many of us refuse to brush our pets’ teeth even once a week. Just think of the condition our mouths would be in if we didn’t brush our teeth regularly. The same goes for our pets. The earlier you get into the practice of brushing, the better– especially for our finicky cats. Use a toothbrush designed for pets with very soft bristles to avoid damaging their delicate gum tissue. For cats in particular, the finger toothbrush is a great alternative. It’s a device that fits over your finger and is easy to navigate through a cat’s mouth. Refrain from using human or baking soda toothpaste because it can upset their stomachs. There are beef and poultry-flavored toothpastes out there that animals love. Click here for some of our favorites!
Professional Dental Care
Aside from caring for our own mouths daily, we periodically see a dentist for an examination and deep cleaning. We should do the same for our pets. The vet can detect potential problems that we may overlook, helping us to avoid future conditions. You can also ask your veterinarian more about dental disease in your pet and receive recommendations for preventative dental care.
Treats For Oral Health
We’ve learned that sticks, stones and indestructible bones can do a real number on our pets’ mouths. A great alternative for pets is giving them crunchy treats. The act of chewing is very natural and not to mention therapeutic for dogs. It can relieve frustration, anxiety, stress and boredom. Crunchy treats work on different levels. Crunchy treats produce saliva, a natural cleaner of teeth. They have a naturally abrasive action. We at Life’s Abundance have a variety of treats that are wonderful for the oral health of our dogs and cats. Here, we will highlight three of them.
When it comes to teeth and gums, these are popular treats. These treats, unlike any other, contain a patented plaque fighting ingredient found in human oral hygiene products. It works by building a coating around the teeth that discourages the buildup of plaque.
Life’s Abundance Gourmet Dental Treats For Dogs also contain calcium and phosphorous, which are good for strong bones and teeth. We’ve also added parsley, an herb rich in chlorophyll that has a natural power to freshen breath. Parsley has many other health benefits, containing vitamins A, B C and K.
Some of the ingredients aside from the ones just mentioned include rolled oats, honey, brown rice, flax seed meal, peanut butter and eggs. Dental Treats For Dogs are not only useful, but delicious. In a university study, dogs chose our Gourmet Dental Treats 4 to 1 over the leading brand of dog treat. The best part about it is dogs don’t even know it’s good for them!
Dogs love to chew, and our new Buffalo Bully Sticks from Free-Range, Grass-Fed Buffalo are an all-natural way to satisfy this instinctive desire. Plus they’ll help reduce tartar and maintain dental health, all at the same time. Our Bully Twists measure between 4? – 9? in length, and provide a satisfying chew that is a better alternative to rawhide. Your dog will love these chews!
Life’s Abundance Gourmet Cat Treats For Healthy Skin & Coat helps to address skin and coat health in different and important ways. Because healthy skin is much more likely to produce strong, luxurious hair, it is vital to nourish the skin. We’ve included omega-3 fatty acids in this premium formula to help discourage the skin from drying out. The vitamin E in this formula helps to maintain skin elasticity. The vitamin C in this formula helps the body to produce collagen, which is the major component of skin. The chicken, herring and chicken liver meals in this formula supply your feline with the high-quality proteins vital for a healthy coat. Protein is necessary for the growth and maintenance of a strong, resilient coat. Dr. Jane believes that a stronger coat will result in less hair being swallowed during normal grooming. The feline-friendly nuggets and savory flavor are appealing to even the most finicky of cats!