Imagine going for months without brushing your teeth; you would probably have rotten teeth, painful gums, and breath that would make an onion cry. What about our pets? Dental hygiene is the most overlooked aspect of pet care, and like us, it is a big deal. Poor dental health leads to a number of problems, yet is so easy to prevent.

tooth close up yellow-brown discoloration, bad breath, bleeding and swollen gums are indicators of neglected teeth. Where plaque and tartar build up, gingivitis and periodontal disease follow. Most people don’t realize that these infections also travel through the bloodstream and affect the kidneys, heart, and liver.

There’s a huge misconception that dry food prevents dental problems. When you eat cookies, crackers, or hard pretzels (anything dry and crunchy), the ingredients seem to get stuck in your teeth. It works the same way for pets and the not-so-healthy ingredients no only lead to dental issues, but other problems as well. In dry or moist commercial pet foods, binders and thickening agents (corn syrup, corn starch, corn gluten meal) exacerbate the issue. These ingredients are designed to bind the foods together and consequently, they bind food to the teeth and gum (and stomach, intestines, colon, etc.).

teeth cleaning dogAn all-natural meat and vegetable diet promotes healthy teeth and gums, but a lot of pets get the added benefit of having their teeth brushed. Use a soft-bristled children’s toothbrush or stop by Four Muddy Paws (we carry toothbrushes just for pets and many more natural dental health options). Start by running a finger over your pet’s teeth and gums to make them comfortable. Praise them throughout and let them know everything is good. Make your own natural “toothpaste”: wet the toothbrush with a sea salt solution (1/4 cup distilled water and 1/8 tsp salt) and sprinkle with baking soda. (Or you can pick up flavored tooth paste from us, just for dogs.) Stay away from human toothpaste which can upset their stomachs if swallowed.

cat with finger dental

If brushing is too big a chore, and the tartar is not too thick, you can actually flick it off using your fingernail. Start by massaging your pet’s muzzle, gently lift the pet’s lip, insert your fingernail between the gums and the tartar, and slide your nail down the tooth until the tartar comes off. We love to give Salem a bone (raw beef knuckle and yes we carry those too); the gnawing action against the tough surface helps clean the teeth. This is closest to what would be occurring if your pets were in the wild.

dalmation tooth smileLack of proper dental care can have disastrous results. You can turn around bad breath and swollen gums with homecare, but once your pet has periodontal disease, it requires a vet’s help with a thorough cleaning and possibly antibiotics. Regular dental check-ups can help make a difference. Healthy food and supplements keep your pets’ teeth strong on the inside, but it’s up to you to keep them healthy on the outside. As with all health issues, the best defense is prevention.

This article was taken from “Halo’s Holistic Pet Spotlight” Vol.3 Issue 1