Does your dog have bad breath? Dental hygiene is one of the most overlooked aspects of animal care but also one of the most essential. According to the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, “Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs, even though it’s completely preventable.” A foul smelling mouth is usually the only symptom — but there is often more going on than meets the nose.

The destructive process begins with bacteria: a familiar culprit that excels at getting beneath your pet’s gum line and attributes to a build-up of plaque and calculus. Consequential stimulation of the body’s immune system lends to more damage than good, resulting in the reaction of white blood cells that work to fight off the bacteria, but also lead to inflammation of the gums, referred to as gingivitis. If left untreated, this damaging cycle can result in soft tissue
eradication and eventually tooth decay.

While there is no substitute for preventive veterinary care and routine dental cleanings, there are plenty of easy, affordable methods to improve your pet’s dental hygiene from the comfort of your own home.

Daily brushing is the most efficient way to reduce the accumulation of bacteria and plaque in your pet’s mouth. If daily brushing is unattainable, shoot for 3-4 times per week. Select a specialized brand of toothpaste made specifically for cats and dogs. Unlike most human toothpastes, these products are fluoride-free and often include enzymatic ingredients that help keep bacteria at bay. Brushing your pet’s teeth may not be the easiest task, but have patience and take time to train and reward your pet for accepting the treatment — it will benefit everyone in the long run.

Oravet Chews
If brushing is simply not an option or you would like to supplement your pet’s preventative dental care, Oravet chews are the perfect solution. More advanced than your basic chews that work as physical mechanisms for removing plaque and calculi, Oravet chews contain an active substance called delmopinol. This compound is released as your pet bites down and works by
disrupting the formation of plaque, attributing to its easier removal. In addition to fighting bad bacteria, Oravet chews also help prevent new plaque from forming. In a comprehensive Merial study, after 56 days of use dogs had 42% less plaque, 54% less tartar and more than 50% less halitosis (bad breath).

VOHC Products
The Veterinary Oral Health Council provides a list of recommended products to help improve the dental health of cats and dogs — including appropriate types of toothbrushes and toothpastes for brushing. This list can be obtained at and the products purchased from your local clinic or nearest pet supplier. Here are a few common examples:

-Chews and Treats: Canine Greenies, Hill’s Prescription Diet Canine Dental Care Chews, Improved Milk Bone – Brushing Chews for Dogs
-Water Additives/Gels: Dog ESSENTIAL healthymouth anti-plaque water additives, Pettura Oral Care Gel

-Treats and Snacks: Feline Greenies Dental Treats, Purina Pro Plan Dental Crunch Cat Snacks
-Water Additives/Gels: Cat ESSENTIAL healthymouth anti-plaque water additives, Cat ESSENTIAL healthymouth anti-plaque gel

Specialized Dental Diets
For pets more susceptible to dental problems, those with a history of periodontal disease, or as a supplement for dental hygiene, there are also VOHC-approved diets that can be purchased through your local veterinarian.

– Hill’s Prescription Diet Dental Care (t/d): This dry food is available for both dogs and cats and was specifically formulated to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, as well as bad breath. It was created by veterinarians, for veterinarians, to be used as a helpful tool for improving your pet’s health.

February is National Dental Month, so start focusing on your pet’s dental hygiene today! Use these tips for better health, happiness, and smiles all around.

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