Posted: Jul 1, 2011 11:06 AM by Bonnie Markoff, DVM, ABVP Animal Care Clinic, San Luis Obispo
Updated: Mar 15, 2012 1:16 PM
Q: Ideally how often should I brush Jack, my little terrier's teeth? Any other good tips on tooth care for my animals? I have a cat too.
A: Toothbrushing is most effective when done daily! The plaque on dog and cat teeth starts to calcify after just 48 hours, and you cannot brush it off if it calcifies.
Most people are not dedicated enough to do this every day. Dogs will often chew on "dental chews" and this can be very helpful - but needs to occur daily. There are "dental chews" for cats, but most cats aren't interested. The chews can be helpful, but will not clean all the teeth. Even with daily brushing, most pets over the age of 3 years will benefit from a teeth cleaning every year.
It is important to recognize that there are some pet teeth cleaning services that are working illegally in our area. The State of California requires that a veterinarian supervise all teeth cleaning procedures. This means that teeth cleaning cannot be done at feed stores or groomers - only at veterinary clinics. The State also considers teeth cleaning that is done without anesthesia to be below the minimum standards of care that our pets deserve. There are significant dangers to cleaning pets teeth without anesthesia. These include inhaling a "chunk" of tartar, damage to the gums and failure to clean the teeth adequately under the gums and on the inner surfaces.
The vast majority of veterinarians will agree that the dangers of anesthesia are far less than the dangers of dental work performed on awake animals. So that means you should do everything you can to keep pet's teeth clean and healthy at home so that you can minimize the amount of dental work your veterinarian will need to do.
I am so glad you are already thinking about this!
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