Dental Care
Caring For Your Pet's Teeth

Have you brushed and flossed? No, not your teeth,your pet's. Dogs and cats need regular dental care just as you do.

Gum disease and broken teeth are the major concerns for animals' teeth. Fortunately, pets seldom suffer from tooth decay. The cone shape of their teeth, non-acidic saliva, and low-sugar diets all help protect them from this nasty ailment. (Note: If you give your pets sweets for snacks, they can get cavities.)

Regular brushing and professional cleaning can keep your pet's teeth healthy and gleaming. Giving pets appropriate toys to chew prevents fractures.

Does it Really Matter?

So your pet has bad teeth. What's the big deal?

Periodontal disease affects the gums, bones, and connective tissue around the teeth, and it can cause tooth loss. First, plaque a soft, clear or cream-colored deposit,forms on the teeth. If it isn't removed, minerals in the animal's saliva turn plaque into tartar. Tartar builds up below the gums and bacteria grow, causing inflammation.

The same bacteria that cause the inflammation can enter your pet's bloodstream and cause or aggravate lung, kidney, liver and heart problems. That's a lot of trouble, worry and cost from something that could be stopped in its early stages.

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Start Care Young

When your puppy first begins to get permanent teeth, check carefully to be sure the baby teeth come out as the new teeth come in. Retained teeth can cause the permanent teeth to be crooked. Toy dog breeds, with their tiny jaws, are at special risk for this problem.

While hard foods and chew toys can help keep teeth clean, you need to get your pet used to regular tooth-brushing. As soon as you bring your new pet home, get it accustomed to having its mouth handled. This is good practice for dogs that will be shown since judges check to be sure the dog has its full set of teeth. It is also good training because it teaches the dog to tolerate having things in its mouth without biting or snapping.

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Feeding Right

What your buddy eats affects his "smile." Dry foods and treats help clean plaque from the teeth. Rawhide chews are also good cleaning tools, as are some of the knobby plastic toys on the market. None of these are hard enough to cause tooth damage, but be sure to watch your pet to be sure small pieces of the toys aren't torn off and swallowed. Real bones can also be dangerous for your pet and should not be used for tooth-cleaning purposes. For a safe, healthy alternative, try IAMS Tartar Treats. They're tasty, edible treats that work to prevent tartar as your dog chews.

All dry adult IAMS® Dog Foods include Daily Dental Care, a special kibble coating that helps reduce tartar buildup for better oral health.

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Teaching Your Pet to Accept Brushing

It just takes a little time and patience. Begin by running your finger gently over his gums. At first, just rub the outside, but as he adjusts to the routine, begin to open his mouth and rub the gums inside the teeth as well.

As your pet gets accustomed to this, wrap your finger with gauze and rub his gums. Eventually, add a pet toothpaste; do not use human toothpaste. After a few weeks, your pet should be willing to accept a toothbrush for pets, which should have soft, multi-tufted synthetic bristles.

Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and apply it to the area where teeth and gums meet. Rotate it in small circles, overlapping several teeth. Finish with vertical strokes to pull plaque from between the teeth. Repeat until all the teeth on the cheek side are clean. The inside teeth will be more difficult, as your pet may resist opening his mouth, but eventually you'll be able to brush the inside and outside surfaces of all the teeth. For effective cleaning, brush your pet's teeth a couple of times a week.

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When Your Pet Needs Professional Help

If your pet won't cooperate with home brushing or if you already see brown tartar stains on his teeth or red and bleeding gums, it's time to turn to your veterinarian for help. He or she will give your pet general anesthesia and clean the teeth above and below the gum line to remove plaque and tartar. After the teeth are cleaned, they will be polished to remove microscopic plaque and to make the teeth smooth to discourage plaque from clinging.

Remember, dental care is as important to your pet's health as it is to your own. You owe it to your pet to provide regular tooth care and cleaning.

Copyright ® 2006 The Iams Company. All rights reserved worldwide. By using this information you are bound by our legal statement.

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