Pet Dental Care

Keep your dog's canines gleaming with toothbrushing, regular dental checkups, and proper nutrition for tooth health.

| March/April 1990

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    Brushing is as essential to preventing dental disease in pets as it is in humans.

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Dental care ought to play an integral role in any whole-body health program—whether for people or their pets. Yet veterinary dental experts tell us that fully 85% of all pets over six years of age have periodontal disease. That's sad. Animals have a tough time enjoying life with less-than-healthy teeth. And tooth problems often lead to serious infections that are extremely difficult to treat, sometimes even becoming life threatening.

Good pet dental care may be a bit of a challenge, but keeping a dog or cat's mouth and teeth healthy is vital to an animal's well-being.

Dog Breeds and Teeth

In some breeds, tooth problems begin at birth. A mini-size pooch that can curl up comfortably on your lap is mighty cute, but if you look at that lapdog's mouth you'll probably find a disaster. When mankind manipulated genetics to develop tiny dog breeds, it managed to decrease the animals' body size but failed to achieve a corresponding decrease in the size and number of teeth. Growing teeth have to go somewhere, and when crammed into a half-size mouth they often rotate sideways or poke in or stick out. A mouthful of ragged and jagged teeth isn't much good for chewing and, worse, is full of gaps that serve as hideaways for food particles that cause gum, bone, and tooth disease.

Larger breeds with scrunched-in faces also commonly inherit congenital dental problems. Pooch's pug nose may make it more appealing in the pet shop window, but its flattened face is jam-packed with teeth meant to fit into a substantially longer snout.

If you're choosing a pup and would rather have one that isn't an instant dental catastrophe, pick a dog that looks caninelike. The more a dog's snout looks like that of a wolf, fox, or coyote, the less our genetic tampering has altered its mouth's structure. If you can hold the dog in the palm of your hand, or if its face looks like it ran full steam into a brick wall, you can pretty much assume the dog is a dental bill waiting to happen.

Toothbrush Training

The time to begin taking care of a pup or kitten's teeth is shortly after it arrives in your household. Brushing is as essential to preventing dental disease in pets as it is in humans. So the sooner the animal gets accustomed to having a toothbrush in its mouth, the better. Here's how to go about it.

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