February is dental month and there are many different oral care products that can help you maintain your pet’s pearly whites!
Still considered the gold standard of oral care, brushing your pet’s teeth gives them the best chance at fighting plaque and tartar build-up and the development of periodontal disease. Brushing the teeth is the most effective way to remove food debris from the teeth, limiting the build-up of plaque and bacteria. The other benefit of brushing is the action of the bristles stimulating the gums, or gingivae. This stimulation increases circulation and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the gums, helping to keep the structure healthy and strong and able to fight inflammation.
If you begin brushing your pet’s teeth right away when they are young, consistently brushing the teeth three times per week can sufficiently clean the teeth and stimulate circulation for healthy gums. However, if your pet has not had consistent brushing, as is the case with most rescues, brushing must be conducted daily to have a significant impact.
It is popular opinion that kibble diets will clean dogs’ and cats’ teeth. This simply is not the case. If you consider the metal tools that your vet needs to use to clean plaque and tartar off your pet’s teeth, there is no way any kibble is going to be abrasive enough to clean plaque and tartar off your pet’s teeth.
Many “dental diets” incorporate ingredients that increase the density of the kibble or that allow for the kibble to be extruded with lots of air bubbles to create a large kibble that requires a lot of chewing. These ingredients are usually insoluble fibre. Not only are these insoluble fibres not digestible by our pets, they can reduce digestibility of other important nutrients in the diet, meaning your pet may not be able to extract the necessary nutrients from their meals.
One thing that dry food does do for oral health is encourage saliva production. Anything dry that your pet eats will stimulate production of saliva which contains antibacterial proteins that keep the mouth clean.
It is more effective and less detrimental to digestion to offer dental solutions separate from regular meals.
Dental chews (edible):
Edible dental chews are an easy, delicious way to support oral health. However, not all dental chews are created equal, some being more effective than others.
The texture of a dental chew is very important in determining its effectiveness. Chews should be malleable and not brittle, while remaining dense enough to last while being chewed. The texture and size should allow for the teeth to sink deep into the chew causing it to push on the gums, stimulating the gingivae. This is what keeps the structures of the mouth healthy to fight against periodontal disease. Hard, brittle chews do not offer this benefit, only offering the benefit of saliva production like dry kibble. It is recommended to offer edible dental chews separate from regular meals (a few hours apart) to ensure they do not alter digestion of essential nutrients.
Raw bones are also beneficial for oral health. Raw bones are softer than smokes bones, so they offer more gingival stimulation, plus they have natural enzymes and probiotics that help to clean the mouth and support the healthy microflora population.
Non-edible dental toys are an alternative to edible dental chews. These products do not contribute calories, so they are a good choice for pets on a weight management program. They also last much longer so may provide more benefits. Soft rubber that teeth can sink into or bristle-like protrusions on the toy can provide adequate stimulation of the gums.
Food and water additives are also available to help maintain oral health for your pets. For best results with these products, they should be used in addition to one or more of the other methods for teeth cleaning since they do not provide any mechanical stimulation of gingivae or physical scrubbing of teeth.
Food and water additives work better than a dental diet because the active ingredients do not interfere with the delivery of essential nutrients while they serve their purpose. Active ingredients could include anti-inflammatories, antibacterial or antifungal substances, enzymes, probiotics or immune boosting and wound healing ingredients.
Find out what is best for your pet:
There are many oral care products and a variety of strategies can be developed. To help you decide which strategy and products are the right choice for your pet, visit your local Global Pet Foods store and speak with the knowledgeable staff.