Pet Dental Health: Myth Vs. Fact

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to animal health—and nowhere is this more true than pet dental health. Many pet owners mistakenly believe that regular dental cleanings are optional or that neglecting their pet’s teeth won’t have much of an effect on their pet’s overall health. The truth is, the mouth is the gateway to your pet’s health. Many debilitating and life-threatening illnesses begin in the mouth, and keeping up with your dog or cat’s oral health helps your four-legged friend remain happy and extends their life.


Common Myths About Dental Care for Your Pet

At Ambassador Animal Hospital, we’re passionate about dental care and about educating pet owners to be great caretakers of their pet’s health. No one is born knowing how to best care for an animal—it’s something that has to be learned, and there is a lot of false information out there. Here, we break down five of the most common myths concerning pet dental health and what you can do to ensure that your pet stays healthy.


Myth 1: Pets Can Keep Their Teeth Clean By Chewing.

Based on the number of dental chews, chew toys, and bones out on the market, it’s understandable that pet owners might believe that these products alone are enough to ensure good dental health. While there are high-quality dental chews and chew toys that will have limited dental health benefits, such as a gum massaging effect, using these products without also scheduling regular dental care is not effective. Even worse, many chew toys and bones, especially hard plastics and animal bones, can actually do damage—fracturing teeth because they’re too hard or splintering and causing cuts in the mouth. If you want to help care for your pet’s teeth at home, the only good option is daily brushing with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste combined with oral rinses that form a protective layer over your pet’s teeth.
Myth 2: Dry Food Keeps My Pet’s Teeth Clean.

This myth is similar to the first. The idea is that dry food is better for dental health than canned food because it helps scrape tartar from your pet’s teeth. Again, as with the myth about dental chews, there is some truth to this, but the effect is minimal. Normal dry cat food, in particular, is too small and brittle to provide any dental health benefit at all as it breaks apart almost instantly.  Not to mention that many pets actually swallow their food whole, avoiding chewing it at all!  If you want to give your pet’s dental health a daily boost, consider feeding a small amount of a dental diet in with their regular food. Typically, these dry foods are designed to be softer, textured, and more porous in order to provide better scrubbing action.


Myth 3: Bad Breath is ‘Normal’ For Dogs.

This is 100% false. Bad breath isn’t any more normal for your dog than it is for you—and is actually a sign of an underlying health issue. Often bad breath is a sign of tooth decay or other dental health problems, but it could also signal a digestive sickness. You know that sweet puppy breath smell we all love? Your adult dog should still have lovely puppy-like breath. If she doesn’t, schedule an annual dental cleaning or come in for a check-up.


Myth 4: A Dog’s Mouth is Naturally Clean.

We’ve all heard this one. A dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s mouth. While animals and humans have different populations of bacteria in their mouths, all living things are hosts for bacteria. Your dog’s mouth is probably dirtier than yours unless you are brushing your dog’s teeth twice daily.  Does your dog have any brown or gray material building up on the tooth surface?  That is tartar and teaming with thousands of bacteria.  It’s smart is to wash up after your dog licks you, and should you ever be bitten by a dog be sure to wash the wound with soap and water and consult your physician.


Myth 5: Dogs and Cats With Dental Disease Won’t Eat.

Many pet owners mistakenly assume that their pets can’t have dental disease because they are still eating. Unfortunately, this is not true. Animals have a much higher tolerance for pain than humans do, and remember many pets swallow food whole. While your pet will yelp if you accidentally step on his tail, it takes a lot before a dog or a cat will vocalize chronic pain or show other signs of distress, like not eating or drinking. The only way to make sure that your pet doesn’t have dental disease is to get a clean bill of health from your veterinarian.


Of course, the best way to protect your pet’s teeth is to schedule regular dental cleanings. We perform dental cleanings under the lowest level of general anesthesia available in order to ensure your pet’s safety and comfort. Regular cleanings are an investment in your pet’s health that will pay off in the future—especially if you can help your pet avoid dental disease, extractions, and other systemic illnesses stemming from poor oral hygiene. Contact us at (864) 271-1112 to schedule your appointment.

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