Recently we talked at length on our podcast Animal Talk, Naturally! about dental care for your pets (reference the show Smiling Faces on our Past Programs page). Many of you may wonder why this would be so important. We always tell people that if you keep the teeth and gums healthy, the intestinal tract healthy and the spine healthy, your pet will most likely BE healthy AND thriving!
Just like us humans our pets can and do get periodontal disease. It is actually quite common these days in fact and we attribute this to several factors:
2. Genetics – really epigenetic as the genes don’t play as important role as once thought
3. Lack of education on the part of pet owner.
While we won’t go into the whole genetics or actually epigenetic reasons in this article, we will help you understand why diet and education are critical to helping you keep your pets healthy.
Rather than waiting until your dog or cat is older to begin routine dental care, start as soon as you bring them home as cute SMALL puppies and kittens. If you don’t, you are going to really regret that decision for many reasons, not the least being they will have adult teeth that hurt when they bite! Those baby teeth won’t stay white and healthy nor will their gums stay a healthy pink unless YOU, the pet owner are willing to take the necessary steps to ensure they stay that way. We prefer to approach our pet care preventively rather than curatively. Prevention is always cheaper and far, far better for the overall health and quality for the life of your pet.
By starting your dental care routine when your pets are young, you will PREVENT the onset of disease and pain for your pet and expense and heartache for you. It isn’t hard to teach a puppy or kitten to tolerate your daily inspections of their mouth and gums and to get used to you brushing their teeth. If you don’t opt for the best diet which in our opinion is a raw meat and bone diet then brushing is a necessity and not an option. This leads us right into the crux of whole health for your pets: DIET and NUTRITION.
Due to processed commercial foods (including dry biscuits or treats), our pet population is experiencing tartar build-up and subsequent periodontal disease as one of the number one health concerns today. Both the dry commercial kibble AND the canned food are major culprits in the decline of our pets health and that certainly includes their dental health.
Most of these commercial kibble and canned food lead to an unnatural alkaline environment in the body of your dogs and cats. These foods are primarily made up of grains, byproducts, preservatives and other junk which are then broken down by enzymes in the saliva which form sugars. These sugars then cause increased tartar build-up in the mouth of your sweet pet (pun intended). Understand something here -doggie breath or stinky cat breath is NOT normal. It is the commercial kibble & canned diets that are creating this unnatural smell and “dirty” mouth in your pets.
The number one disease that affects the mouths of our pets after age 2 is: you guessed it periodontal disease. You did not misread that age either. Two years! Now this may not sound too terrible until you understand that this disease affects more than just the teeth and gums of your pet. It can and does destroy all of the supporting structures of the mouth. The infection can also seep into the bloodstream thereby affecting other parts of your pet’s body including but not limited to the liver, kidneys, joints, heart, brain, etc.
A healthy dog or cat mouth will be teaming with good bacteria. As the plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth, the natural eco-balance of these good bacteria is knocked off kilter and the opportunity for disease begins. Once the tartar starts to build under the gums, inflammation and soreness start. Then the gums slowly begin to separate from the teeth allowing the tartar to build quicker. This is when infection can set in such as abscesses and other painful and unnecessary problems.
What You Need To Do
No one said owning a pet is an easy thing. Our pets are completely dependent upon us for their care. If we decide to bring them home, then we owe it to them to give them the care they deserve. Taking care of their teeth is no different than taking care of ours.
The easiest way to do this is through a species specific diet. Since we’re talking about cats and dogs here, the optimal diet for optimal dental and overall health would be raw meat and bones since they are carnivores. With this diet that is natural to them, brushing their teeth daily won’t be necessary as the bones will do this for you and them. Not only that, but there won’t be the problem of smelly breath. Plus a raw diet provides the correct probiotics, enzymes, and nutrients that help your pet’s overall health to thrive.
“In the natural state, carnivores do not develop calculus (tartar). Domesticated animals, in contrast, are not eating their natural diet and the softer food accumulates on the outside of the teeth in an area where it cannot easily be cleaned off. It is familiar to us that we can put our tongue in between our teeth and the inside of the cheeks to clean out accumulated food. Dogs and cats cannot do that as their teeth are too sharp. In the natural state, carnivores keep the outside teeth clean by gnawing on bones, a process you can still see with both dogs and cats accustomed to eating bones. If you observe the position they take, you will see that they use their side teeth in a sliding motion along the bone and this scrapes off any residue left from eating. The obvious solution to the problem of tartar accumulation in domestic animals is to give them bones to chew on. In my experience this is the most effective method and, for many animals, will clean the teeth to perfection.” Dr. Pitcairn, DVM
Gnawing on hard food such as raw bones and treats such as tendons also helps to exercise the teeth and gums and as Dr. Pitcairn stated above, helps scrape off plaque, helping to prevent tartar buildup.
Dr. Tom Lonsdale and other concerned veterinarians continue their campaign for the banning of what they consider to be misleading pet food industry advertising. “Pet owners should be informed that feeding processed pet foods is likely to lead to ill health, suffering and unnecessary vet bills.” Dr. Tom Lonsdale, author of Raw Meaty Bones
So if you choose not to give your pets a raw bone to clean their teeth and gums, then you will have to take the extra step, DAILY, of brushing your dogs and cats teeth. Yes we said brushing them as in “toothpaste and toothbrush”. No we do NOT mean using your toothpaste either. Sweeteners and fluoride in your toothpaste is dangerous for your pets so do not use those. Purchase toothpaste made specifically for your pets or choose one that doesn’t have all those chemical ingredients. We both use Dentarome Plus and Fresh Essence Mouthwash for those occasional times we feel our dogs need a little extra help. If you’re a first-timer at brushing your dog or cat’s mouth, please go easy and gently. Take it slow. Let them get used to you having your fingers in their mouth. By going slowly and easing them into it, you will have a special bonding time with your pet and at the same time teaching them that you aren’t going to hurt them but help them. They don’t know what you’re doing initially and it’s up to you to guide them.
One last word, grain-filled treats, dry kibble, rawhide, Greenies, etc. are NOT good choices to help your pets teeth stay clean. You are far better off either brushing them like we suggested above OR giving them a raw meaty bone to chomp on. Treats and dry kibble are part of the dental problem so they can never be part of the solution.
We hope this has opened your eyes to the necessity of dental health for your pets.
About the authors:
Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author. This article is for educational purposes only. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.
Dr. Kim Bloomer is an animal naturopath educating on canine wellness and nutrition. Dr. Kim is the host and creator of Animal Talk Naturally Radio show which she hosts together with her like-minded colleague and friend, Dr. Jeannie Thomason, and a proficient blogger and writer on natural pet health. Dr. Kim is also co-author of the book Whole Health for Happy Dogs and author of Animals Taught Me That. Dr. Kim’s articles have been featured in various publications including Animal Wellness, Pet Connection, Natural Horse and others.
DISCLAIMER: All information contained here on Aspenbloom Pet Care is intended for educational purposes only. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease, illness or injured condition of the body or pets and the author, publisher, and contributors accept no responsibility for such use. Anyone or their pets suffering from any disease, illness or injury should consult with their physician or veterinarian. The ONLY essential oils we use and refer to in ALL our posts, articles, and podcasts are Young Living Essential Oils. We DO NOT use any others and would not. The statements herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
PHOTO ATTRIBUTION: By Erica Danow of Raw Instincts Magazine of her dog, Behr