The condition of your pet’s teeth and gums is very important to his health. Bits of food combine with bacteria and saliva to form plaque, which adheres to the surface of the teeth. A build up of plaque causes inflames gums, which may discharge pus. Minerals in the saliva become deposited in the plaque, forming a brown crusty material called tartar. Badly infected gums and tartar-covered teeth are the most common cause of bad breath in pets. Bacteria from severely infected gums can get into the bloodstream and travel to the heart, causing heart disease.
When pets eat dry food, the chewing action keeps their teeth cleaner, stronger, and in better condition than the teeth of pets that receive only canned food.
Dog biscuits are somewaht helpful, but most dogs bite the biscuit once or twice and then swallow it without the benefit of brushing action and gum stimulation that a more complete chewing would provide. Hard chews or raw bones provide a more complete chew.
Both dogs and cats need regular dental checkups and teeth-cleaning. For some animals, the chemistry in their mouths causes a heavy accumulation of tartar, which necessitates frequent teeth cleaning.
Diligent pet parents should brush their pet’s teeth to prevent dental problems. Specially designed finger toothbrushes for dogs and cats have been developed, although a piece of gauze bandage wrapped on your index finger and then rubbed against the pet’s teeth serves almost as well.
Caution: don’t substitute human toothpaste for pet toothpaste. Toothpaste for people often contains ingredients that may be harmful to your pet, such as salicylates. Pet toothpastes come in a variety of flavors, including poultry, liver, beef, and malt. Some come with a starter kit with a toothbrush shaped for your pet’s mouth – cat or dog.