Wednesday, February 21, 2024

The Pet Expert: The Hierarchy of Dental Health Solutions for Pets

In case you haven’t noticed the increase in pet-related advertisements for everything from doggy toothbrushes to dental chew treats and more, February is dental health month!

For consumers, the myriad of dental health options for pets can be overwhelming and confusing. As loving pet owners, we all want what’s best for our pets, and oral health is of the utmost importance for your pet’s long-term quality of life. Tooth pain, infections, and inflammation in the mouth may not always be obvious at first, but for pets these symptoms can have awful repercussions, affecting their daily lives. After all, the mouth is the gateway to the body.

It may surprise you to learn how common dental health problems are among pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have signs of dental disease by their third year of age. Considering how preventable dental disease is, these statistics are alarming, and are a clear indicator that most pet owners do not put enough importance on their pet’s dental health.

As with humans, there is a hierarchy of dental health solutions for pets, with decreasing efficiency as you move down the list. The absolute best thing you can do for your dog or cat’s dental health is to brush their teeth every day with a pet-specific toothbrush and enzymatic toothpaste. To many, this may sound like a daunting task, as many pets aren’t very eager to cooperate – at first. Over time, with positive reinforcement and plenty of patience, most pets may not only tolerate daily brushing, they may actually enjoy it. The key is to make brushing a rewarding experience.

The second-best option for dental health is using an enzymatic powder, which is applied directly to your pet’s food. Popular brands like Plaque-Off offer a sea algae-based powdered supplement containing enzymes that effectively remove plaque and tartar from your pet’s teeth. The enzymes work by travelling through the saliva and digesting unwanted bacteria and build-up on the teeth and gums. Supplements like these are less intrusive than brushing, and work best when given daily.

There are also a variety of liquid dental health options for pets, including water additives and sprays. Water additives are one of the most convenient means of dental health supplementation. However, it can be difficult to ensure your pet is consuming an adequate amount, especially if they don’t completely empty their water bowl each day, or share their bowl with other animals.

Dental sprays are another convenient dental health option, as you spray them on your pet’s teeth directly one or two times a day. However, many spray-on solutions contain varying degrees of alcohol, which can be worrisome for smaller pets. It is wise to check the ingredients in dental health sprays to ensure they don’t contain potentially harmful ingredients, especially if your pet has any pre-existing health issues.

Finally, dental health treats, such as Greenies and other dental chews are the most agreeable dental health product for pets. However, because these products primarily help clean the teeth that are doing the chewing, they may have a much more limited effect on cleaning your pet’s teeth than the above-noted options. Additionally, many dental health chews are made with low-quality ingredients. When it comes to dental chews, always check the ingredients first to ensure what you feed your dog is safe and healthy. Portion control is important, too, as calories from these chews can add up quickly.

Other effective dental chew solutions include raw chicken necks, raw turkey necks, and more. The cartilage in these chews act like a fine sandpaper, effectively grinding build-up from the teeth and gum line.

Now, there’s no reason to choose only one of these solutions, either. While some dental-health products are definitely more effective than others, combining a number of these solutions will result in even better overall oral health for your pets. The real key is consistency. Sticking to a regimented dental health schedule makes all the difference in the world.

If your pet suffers from chronic bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, darkening of the teeth, broken/chipped teeth, appears to be in pain when eating, or has a large build-up of tartar and plaque, then a professional teeth cleaning by a veterinarian may be their best option for a positive long-term outlook. The cost, and the anaesthetic used in veterinary dental cleanings are big deterrents for pet owners. This is especially true for older pets, as the use of anaesthetic becomes more risky with age.

Consider having your dog’s teeth cleaned by KissableK9 on March 28th at Canadian Pet Connection for $169.

Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit

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