By Charlotte Boucher-Beaulieu, CVT

? Remember the last time you had a toothache? Or the last ulcer on your gums that kept you from eating for a week? Worse yet, imagine not brushing your teeth for more than a week. All these things that bother us are a daily battle for our pets. Yet all it takes is perseverance and rewards to prevent a lot of problems.

? More than 80% of cats and dogs will suffer from dental disease before the age of two. A lack of hygiene transforms plaque into tartar, which increases the proliferation of bacteria in the mouth. This can then cause gingivitis, ulcers, abscesses and more importantly, pain.

? Lack of treatment can lead to severe and sometimes terminal periodontitis and the only thing to do then is to remove all the teeth. The teeth are no longer supported by the bone that was eaten away by bacteria, and tartar caused the exposure of the tooth structures, a very painful situation.

? But that’s not all. Infection present in the mouth then gets into the blood stream and will reach organs such as the liver, heart, kidneys or lungs, in addition to inducing a continuous inflammatory process in the animal’s system. It isn’t rare that periodontal disease be the beginning of several chronic conditions in an animal.

? Obviously, when your pet’s dental condition is at an advanced stage, it is urgent to perform dentistry under anesthesia. It is very important to have qualified people perform this type of procedure. It is a procedure strictly reserved to veterinarians. The vet can do a complete evaluation of your pet’s mouth, take dental x-rays, perform scaling, subgingival curettage, polishing and, if necessary, dental extractions. Your pet requires anesthesia because it would be impossible to work adequately without it, even for the nicest of pets.

? All these treatments require money and few people think to budget this when acquiring a pet. It is therefore imperative to start a dental hygiene routine. There are treats that can be used to clean teeth as well as dental diets, but nothing can ever beat the effectiveness of tooth brushing.

? Choose a soft-bristle toothbrush or a finger brush to start with and get some pet toothpaste in a flavour your pet will enjoy. It is essential to use pet toothpaste because human toothpaste contains fluoride, which is harmful when not spit out. Go step by step, use positive reinforcement and remain consistent. Plaque turns into tartar after 48 hours, so doing it only once a week is useless.

? If your pet already has advanced periodontal disease, there are gels or supplements to control the situation until their dental. Don’t get discouraged, absolutely all pets and all pet parents can do it with cookies and courage!