Teeth are an important part of health care for pets. But they’re also somewhat easy to ignore—until there’s a problem, that is.
However, there are steps we can take at home to help keep our pets’ teeth clean and problem-free.
One way to help keep that tartar from building up on our pets’ teeth is by brushing daily. Don’t use human toothpastes because they often contain ingredients like fluoride and xylitol, which are toxic to pets. There are many brands of toothpastes, water additives, powders, gels, and sprays out there designed to clean pets’ teeth. Do your research and find something that suits your pet best. For instance, avoid ingredients that are potential allergens for your pet and consider what your pet will find more acceptable (does he hate sprays?). Also, find a toothbrush that is comfortable for you and your pet—it may be a finger brush or even a more natural type brush.
Both animal-based and manufactured dental chews are quite common as well. Animal-based chews like antlers, bully sticks, and cow ears are dry and typically offer your pet increased gnawing time over just a crunchy treat. The harder the chew—like antlers—the greater the risk of cracking or breaking a tooth. Power chewers should definitely avoid the harder chews. Be aware that even “natural” animal-based chews can be processed with bleach and other chemicals, so make sure to ask the company questions about processing. Manufactured dental chews often use grains or other carbohydrates to create a kind of bone that pets are supposed to consume while gaining dental benefits. But not all brands contain quality ingredients, so again research is important.
The first thing to know about bones and pets is never feed cooked bones—they must always be raw. Beyond that, giving pets raw meaty bones (which are completely consumed) and recreational bones (which should only be chewed) requires knowing how your pet will chew (does he inhale his food?), his size, and bone sizes and types (some are harder than others). Pets must be monitored at all times—risks include things like choking and intestinal blockages. Small pieces should be taken away. Many raw feeders say that bones can be fantastic teeth cleaners. Again, do your homework.
Regardless of what you decide to use for your pet’s home dental care routine, do your best to avoid harsh ingredients and chemicals. Remember that your pet will be swallowing anything you give him, so treat it all like it is basically food. Use the same standards as you would in looking for a quality food. And even products labeled as “natural” aren’t always so. Ask the manufacturer questions when you’re in doubt.
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