PLANTATION, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Pets are amazing in many ways, but many do not have thumbs, which makes it hard for them to hold a toothbrush. So, they rely on their human friends for help performing dental care activities. March 3rd is “If Pets Had Opposable Thumbs Day,” and in honor of this wonderfully weird holiday, the team at DentalPlans.com shares some tips on how to take care of your pets’ teeth on a budget.
So, why do Max’s teeth need to be brushed, when wolves in the wild seem to do just fine without dental care? Diet is one reason, as wolves usually do not have people sneaking them table scraps. Lifespan is another—the average wolf-in-the-wild’s lifespan (about 6 years) is about half that of the domestic dog. Longer lifespans in domesticated species result in a greater need for regular dental care.
Veterinarians typically advise cleaning your pet’s teeth three times a week. However, not everyone follows that important rule of thumb. In fact, most pet owners wait until their pet is sedated for another medical procedure to treat their teeth. Overall, the whole process is just easier when performed by a trained professional while the animal is unconscious.
Unfortunately, very occasional brushing is not enough for optimum pet health. Just like people, pets need regular dental checkups and cleanings plus a consistent at-home oral health routine. The tartar that builds up on a pet’s teeth is primarily made up of bacteria and will damage the animal’s oral health, impacting their overall health. Plus, although it may be harder to indicate or communicate, pets, too, suffer pain from decayed, infected teeth just like humans do.
What You Can Do:
Many pets tolerate tooth brushing if trained to do so from an early age. It is important to use a soft brush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs or cats. Fluoride makes dogs very ill and most pets will prefer a chicken or beef flavored toothpaste over the minty-fresh human variety. These items can be purchased at a local pet store, many of which carry toothbrushes that are inexpensive and can fit on a pointer finger to make brushing easier.
The American Animal Hospital Association suggests approaching tooth-brushing in the same manner as any type of training—with plenty of positive feedback, practice, and patience. It is recommended that pet owners start by placing a small dab of pet-approved toothpaste in the animal’s mouth, and gradually work up to introducing a tooth brush. It is also a good idea to focus on brushing the front surfaces of the animal’s teeth.
If brushing is simply not an option, due to a pet’s temperament, pet owners should talk to a veterinarian. Other helpful options may require budget-friendly at-home dental health routines such as additives to the pet’s drinking water, specific chew toys or bones and/or food. Professional cleanings twice a year, performed under sedation, may be necessary for some animals depending on the condition of their teeth. However, others may require professional cleanings every few years. It is important for pet owners to be on top of their pets’ dental health and to consult with a veterinarian as needed.
Keeping an eye out for symptoms of dental decay such as bad breath (or an increase in the pet’s usual halitosis), excessive drooling, reluctance to eat, pawing at the mouth, and a change in the pet’s attitude/demeanor, is also highly recommended.
“It’s important to care for your pet, look for any warning signs and take care of their teeth regularly, as neglecting to do so can be detrimental to a pet’s health,” said Bill Chase, senior vice-president of marketing at DentalPlans.com, a leading online consumer marketplace for dental savings plans.
For severe dental problems, a veterinary dentist may be needed. This can be a challenge for many people who are already struggling to afford necessary dental care for themselves, let alone for their pet.
“Procedures can be expensive even for our pets. However, pet insurance and other means can help offset the costs for their dental and other healthcare needs,” said Chase. “You, personally, wouldn’t want to have a dirty mouth or pain due to infected gums, so why would you want that for your pet?”
And while DentalPlans.com doesn’t offer pet insurance, pet owners can look into joining a dental savings plan, so they can reduce the cost of their own dental care.
“A dental savings plan – many of which also include discounts on vision and hearing care, prescriptions, and other healthcare needs – reduces dental costs by ten-to-sixty percent. This takes some stress off the household budget, enabling pet owners to afford dental care for their furry family members too.”
DentalPlans.com, founded in 1999, is a leading dental and health savings online marketplace in the U.S., helping more than a million people to affordably access quality healthcare services. Our mission is to empower consumers with the tools, information, and services that they need to live happier, healthier lives. www.dentalplans.com.