How to train your pet for an oral care routine
According to a recent survey published by Quebec’s small animal veterinarian association (AMVQ), only 1% of cat owners and 3% of dog owners provide daily preventative oral care to their pets. Yet it is what is recommended by veterinarians.
It is really sad, because without preventative oral care nearly 70% of cats and 80% of dogs will suffer from periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3 years old.
The consequences of periodontal disease are quite serious: gum inflammation, pain, gingival recession, infection, abscesses, tooth loss and even systemic diseases. This means that the bacteria causing oral infection, can spread to organs such as liver, kidneys, lungs and heart.
So, preventative oral care is extremely important for cats and dogs.
The poor compliance of pet parents to provide preventative oral care is frequently related to a deficient method.
The gold standard for pet oral care at home is brushing.
Brushing a pet’s teeth should be an easy and enjoyable procedure. Since it takes 48 hours for the plaque (biofilm) to calcify, your pet’s teeth should be brushed at least three times weekly but daily brushing is optimal.
Here are some tips for getting started:
Get your cat or dog used to the idea of having his or her teeth brushed by keeping the sessions short and positive.
Start as early as possible. Even though in pets, permanent teeth usually start erupting at the age of four months, starting home dental care early usually translates with success.
First, gently massage the gums with your finger. Then give a treat. Repeat this action twice a day until your pet is comfortable with the procedure. It could take up to two weeks.
Then offer a small amount (smaller than a pea) of the toothpaste as a treat. This implies that the cat or dog has to love the toothpaste. This is why using a chicken flavoured one such as the bluestem chicken flavour toothpaste is always a good idea, especially for cats. Using your regular toothpaste should be avoided. Our toothpastes are not meant to be swallowed and they can cause a lot of drooling, especially in cats. It generates of a lot of stress and creates negative reinforcement. Just the opposite of what you want.
Once your pet is used to the toothpaste, put it on a pet’s toothbrush. Don’t use a people toothbrush. The size of the toothbrush should be appropriate to the size of the pet. Cats and small dog’s toothbrushes are smaller than human ones, have softer bristles and have a slightly angled head.
Once your pet is used to lick the toothpaste from the toothbrush, start brushing the teeth gently. This should be a quick operation. A few seconds on each side.
Once it is done, reward with a favourite treat.
This will reinforce the compliance behaviour and it will help make future brushing easier on you both.
Despite all the positive reinforcement and the patience, some pets will not accept brushing. Luckily, alternatives exist.
Some pets are more amenable to dental wipes such as the bluestem ones.
You have to proceed exactly as mentioned above, except that once your pet is used to gum massage with your finger, you wrap the wipe around your index and you keep on massaging the teeth and gums as before.
The bluestem wipes contain the coactiv+ technology that destroys plaque from the surface of the tooth and, though they don’t pick food particles out of the gum socket as well as toothbrushes, they are the next best thing to brushing and, like brushing, these products are best used daily.
Bluestem also offers an additive (liquid or powder) containing the coactiv+ technology. It is mixed daily in the pet’s drinking water. Using the water additive in combination with regular tooth brushing or tooth wiping (3 times a week) is a good alternative.
If you have any doubts concerning your pet’s oral health, make an appointment with your veterinarian before you begin brushing or wiping his or her teeth.