I will tell you, and I will stand by it until the day I die, that dental cleanings are an extremely important and helpful measure in keeping your pet healthy. My teeth are white. My gums aren’t red. My teeth aren’t falling out of my head. And I still get cleanings twice a year. Visible disease is not the only sign your mouth needs care.
Every once in a while, someone will come in a few months after a cleaning and point out the fact that there is, again, some visible plaque. “How come?” they ask. “Why aren’t the teeth still pearly white?”
I reply, “Are you brushing them?” to which they usually reply “no.” I can’t stand morning breath, and that’s only 8 hours or so after the last brushing. If I went 8 weeks or more? Eeew.
When pets come to me for a cleaning, they are always sent home with some sort of home dental care product. I do this because it really, truly helps. It helps make the yearly cleanings a quick 30 minute procedure instead of a painful, drawn out affair with extractions and drills. No one likes that.
So to summarize: These are products I love as a complement to cleaning, not as a replacement. And with that:
1. Drinking water additive. This product by Glen Haven is as easy as can be- just add it to your pet’s drinking water and voila! This is the one I recommend to people who swear they can’t get near their pet’s mouth. (Side note: I’ve seen other brands that contain xylitol, so check the label.)
2. Enzymatic chews. These are rawhide chews that are coated with an enzyme that helps break down tartar. I’ve had very positive feedback from clients who have seen the difference firsthand. Brody thinks they are the greatest thing on Earth. Obviously not a good choice for people whose pets can’t eat rawhide, but I’ve learned they recently introduced a vegetarian version as well. Virbac also makes similar chews for cats.
3. Toothbrushing. This is really the gold standard in at-home dental care. We all know this, right? Raise your hand if you do it every day. Then give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing a tremendous job.
I know that realistically the vast majority of owners just don’t do this, which is why I included options 1, 2, and 4. That doesn’t mean we can’t all aspire to do this, though, right? Go buy a brush.
4. Greenies. I don’t know what it is about these weird little green toothbrush things, but dogs just love ’em. They work by mechanical abrasion- ie, your pet needs to chew them and not gulp them in order to get the benefits- but they are another great treat choice for many pets. There are cat greenies as well.
Every year there are new and fantastic products out there for home use, so if you have a favorite I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear it. I know someone will probably bring up the raw bones. I’m still researching and withholding an opinion either for or against, but as always feel free to comment with your thoughts!