and ." Left unchecked, periodontitis can lead to painful infections, and in severe cases, become life-threatening because harmful mouth bacteria can enter the bloodstream and inflame other parts of the body. But don't fret. Use these tips and toys for getting your pet's mouth squeaky clean. By Maridel Reyes
Start brushing your pet's teeth as soon as you get him. The routine is the same for cats and dogs, just go slower with cats, suggests Brook A. Niemiec, DVM, since they are less receptive to brushing than dogs.
Begin by placing your fingers just inside his lips. Gradually build up to running your fingers along his teeth and gums. Reward him with a food treat, since eating helps scrape the tartar off of teeth, and the prize keeps the experience positive. Repeat with a child's soft toothbrush or one specially designed for animals.
Get your dog or cat some veterinary toothpaste, which you can buy at the vet's office or at a pet supply
Position the toothbrush near the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line. Work from back to front, making small circles along gums. For cats,
Keep it short. Brush for only a minute or two, two to three times per week, says Dr. Corry just be sure to hit all the tooth surfaces and the gums. After brushing is complete, always provide another treat.
Does My Pet Need a Dentist?
Like humans, pets can get cavities. At home, examine your pet's mouth every time you brush his teeth.
The latest products will give your pet plenty of pleasure and keep his mouth healthy. "Any toy that you can make an indentation with your fingernail is a good bet to boost oral health, like rope toys or sheepskin toys," says Niemiec. Or you can look for
Nylabone Plaque Attacker Dental Dinosaur
These flexible dog chews toys are available in brontosaurus, tyrannosaurus rex, and stegosaurus shapes. Raised nubs attack plaque and tartar and the unique shape massages gums.
Available at Amazon.com, $7.99.
Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews
Gnawing on this bacon-flavored treat gently removes Fido's tartar. Rawhide is coated with a mixture containing sodium tripolyphosphate to reduce tartar formation and an antimicrobial agent to prevent plaque and bad breath.
Available at Tartarshield.com, $7.99.
Insert your dog's favorite treat inside and watch him go chew-crazy, or simply use the empty stick as a fetch toy. Deep ridges pick out food from teeth while providing a gentle gum massage.
Available at Petco.com, $10.99
Petstages Fishy Fun Cat Toy
These chew toys are filled with catnip and catnip stalks for more crunch and more tooth-scraping action. Kitties will be enthralled by the fins and ribbon tails. The nylon material won't tear even when your pal sinks her teeth into them.
Available at Petsmart.com, $3.99
Feline Greenies Dental Treats
The unique plaque-scraping shape of these treats helps reduce tartar and plaque. It's perfectly portioned at just 2 calories per piece and contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
Available at Petco.com, $3.99.
Originally published in the August 2010 issue of Family Circle magazine.