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Brush Your Teeth (and your pets)!

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You brush your teeth, floss, and visit the dentist regularly—because you really don’t want periodontal disease. You want to keep your teeth healthy and you really want to avoid cavities and other unpleasant dental procedures. Your pet needs regular dental care too!

While your pet’s teeth are not quite the same as ours, they are quite similar. Puppies and kittens are born without any teeth. They have baby, or deciduous teeth. Puppies start getting their teeth at around 3-4 weeks old and kittens at about 2 weeks old. Permanent teeth in dogs and cats start to erupt around 4 months old. It can be a relief when the adult teeth replace those razor-sharp baby teeth! How many adult teeth do dogs and cats have? Humans normally have 32, dogs have 42 teeth, and cats have 30. And like us, healthy adult teeth are very important.

Almost every pet will develop some degree of dental disease if they live a normal life span and are not on preventative dental care. Similar to humans, plaque begins to form on pet teeth, hardening into tartar, and leading to irritated, inflamed and painful gums (gingivitis). If left untreated, bleeding gums, infected bone surrounding the teeth, and rotting teeth result. In severe cases, your pet can lose teeth and/or the infection can travel through the bloodstream to damage his/her heart, liver, and kidneys. Lack of regular dental care can lead to pain, tooth loss, and other serious health conditions.

The good news? Good oral health for your pet is not much different than for you. Prevention is key! If you are able, brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily. You will need to select a proper toothbrush and a pet-specific toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste—it isn’t safe for your pet to swallow), available at pet stores or from your veterinarian. Certain treats and toys can also help keep their teeth clean. Most importantly, schedule a wellness visit with your veterinarian yearly. Your veterinarian will do an oral exam as part of that visit and will note any problems or concerns. Most dogs and cats will start to show some form of dental disease by the time they are 3 years old, so early detection is important. Your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning—much like a dental cleaning visit for you. Clean, healthy teeth help ensure a healthy pet.

Here is a video that will show you how to brush your pet’s teeth:

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