Dental health matters for pets too

Monday, February 11, 2013 - 12:00am

(StatePoint) There's a good reason that one of the first things we teach children is proper tooth brushing technique. Dental health is crucial for overall health. And you may not think about it as often, but pets also require regular dental care.

February, which is Pet Dental Health Month, serves as an excellent reminder for pet owners that good dental health is vital. And experts say that the stakes are a lot higher than maintaining pretty teeth and avoiding dreaded doggy breath.

"Untreated plaque and tartar will eventually lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease in the mouth," warns Dr. Rod Van Horn, a veterinarian and member of the American Veterinary Dental Society. "And those same bacteria could enter the blood stream, leading to heart disease or filter through the kidneys and liver."

With good habits and veterinary-strength pet dental products, pet parents can help avoid these serious health problems. Here are some top dog dental care tips that will keep teeth their sparkly best:

o Veterinarians recommend once-a-day brushing for optimum health. If you're time-strapped or your dog is resistant, remember, the more often you brush, the better.

o Starting early is always best, as puppies can get used to brushing more easily. But even old dogs can learn new dental tricks. Start by letting your pooch taste pet toothpaste from your finger on several occasions. Then put some on their pet toothbrush to get them used to the texture.

A paste with a food flavor should make the process easier. For example, SENTRY Petrodex Veterinary Strength Poultry Fresh Mint Twin Power Toothpaste has enough poultry flavor to encourage dogs to lick it up and a mint scent to freshen breath.

When your pet is ready, (some dogs take days, others take weeks) gently rub your fingers on their gums and lips to get them used to the sensation.

o When you're finally ready to start brushing, keep it safe, gentle and effective with a brush especially designed for dogs' needs. One example is the SENTRY Petrodex Dual Ended 360 Brush. It has a soft bristle 360-degree head on one end and a traditional head on the other, as well as a plaque scraper.

Opt for an ergonomic handle to make it easier to keep a firm grip while brushing. If your dog doesn't take to the regular pet toothbrush, consider a finger toothbrush, which is softer.

o Chewing is great for dogs, helping to improve dental health by scraping away existing plaque and tartar. Give pets a better alternative than your slippers, such as a dental chew that activates the body's natural defense system, killing plaque-forming bacteria.

o For dogs with bad breath, consider a breath spray that fights odors and controls tartar. Opt for something easy-to-use that has a veterinary-strength potency.

Use Pet Dental Health Month to brush up on more tips and tricks at www.SentryPetCare.com.

"Want your dog to live a longer happier life? The answer is simple. Keep pets' teeth and gums in tip top shape," stresses Dr. Van Horn.

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