Paws Corner: Pets Not Immune to Gum Disease

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: My dog, “Parker,” had two teeth removed during his last visit to the veterinarian, who said he had periodontal disease. I always thought that feeding him teeth-cleaning dog treats was enough to keep his teeth healthy, but the veterinarian said no. Can you let your readers know that their pet’s teeth need regular brushing and periodic checkups at the vet’s office? — Sharon in Fort Lauderdale, FL
DEAR SHARON: Dogs and cats can get gingivitis, periodontal disease, suffer from tooth loss and be at risk for serious health problems if infections enter the bloodstream.
While treats, chew toys and other products that promote pets’ dental health are fine to use, they are not a replacement for brushing — at least once a week — and an annual dental checkup and tooth cleaning.
Purchase a pet-specific toothbrush and toothpaste at the pet store or vet’s office. Human toothbrushes and mint-flavored toothpaste will not do. Pet toothbrushes often are shaped to fit over one finger so that you can hold your pet’s head still and gently lift his or her lip in order to reach the gums.
Place a small dab of pet toothpaste onto the brush, cradle your pet’s head, and lift his or her lip upward (or downward, if brushing the lower teeth). Brush by starting at the gumline and brushing gently down over the teeth (or upward, if brushing the lower teeth). Be patient and give your pet lots of encouragement.
Many pets resist having their teeth brushed, so again, be patient and gentle, and give lots of praise and a treat at the end of each session.