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Home care for your dog or cat can make a tremendous difference in your pet's comfort and health. There are a wide variety of home care options from which to choose, but keep in mind that anything you can do to help slow plaque and tartar accumulation will pay back big dividends. Unlike dogs, cats are very individualistic in their acceptance of oral home care. Frequently, trial and error experimentation is required. Try to find those techniques and products that you cat seems to prefer (or is offended by the least). Some cats are very particular about new flavors. Patience and a gentle approach will yield the best results.
Below we have listed oral home care products that have been proven to be of benefit for dogs and cats. Frequently the best approach is to combine several methods of control to achieve best results. All methods of home care share the goal of minimizing plaque (bacterial film) accumulation, and preventing the mineralization of the plaque to form calculus ("tartar").
Brushing your pet's teeth is the best way to curtail dental disease. The bacterial film known as "plaque" is the root of many dental problems. This film is easily displaced by simple mechanical disruption as the teeth are brushed. Daily brushing is required to improve dental health, while brushing every other day will help maintain the dental health in its current state. Almost all dogs and cats will eventually accept brushing. The key to success is to be patient and gradual in your approach, brushing mainly the outsides of the "cheek teeth." A pet that resists brushing frequently does so because they have painful areas in their mouth that need to be addressed. We recommend CET toothpaste for pets, which is pet safe and comes in several flavors such as poultry, malt, and mint. Avoid human toothpastes as they usually contain abrasives and detergents that can be irritating if swallowed.
CET Oral Rinse
This rinse provides antibacterial benefits lasting for several hours. It is safe for pets and rarely causes any problems. The rinse is applied by squirting a small amount inside the cheek on each side of the mouth. The chlorhexidine binds to the oral tissues, tooth surfaces, and existing plaque, and is gradually released into the oral cavity. Some pets may object to the taste of the product.
Aquadent in the drinking water helps to improve the breath as well as detoxifying certain bacterial products that can interfere with healthy oral tissues. This product is easy to use as it is added to drinking water. It is best used as an adjunct to other home care methods.
Anything that helps increase chewing can be of benefit. To the surprise of many owners, feeding exclusively dry food is of little benefit. Most dry kibble is designed to shatter upon impact with the teeth, which prevents it from effectively removing plaque build up.
Several specific diets have been shown to be of benefit in decreasing dental disease. Science Diet t/d and Science Diet Oral Care are both "mesh-type" diets that scrub the teeth with a fibrous mesh as your pet chews. Friskies Dental Diet, and Eukanuba Dental Defense Diet both employ a chemical coating (sodium hexametaphosphate) that safely decreases tartar formation, and is very well-accepted by most patients. All of these foods are most effective if fed as the only diet for your pet.
Tartarchek biscuits are of benefit and contain the same ingredient as the Friskies Dental Diet. Pedigree Denta-bones are also are of benefit, but contain a significant number of calories and are occasionally associated with diarrhea. Normal "Milk Bone" type biscuits are of little benefit. A good (and less-expensive) choice for a dental treat is to use the T/D diet large bites as treats.
Rawhide chews have been shown to be safe and effective in reducing plaque accumulation. CET rawhide chews contain a dual-enzyme system that improves their effectiveness compared to plain rawhide chews.
Kongs are firm rubber toys that come in a variety of sizes and shapes. When chewed on, these toys will break up the plaque film and prevent tartar accumulation. Some Kong shapes allow you to place cheese or peanut butter inside to improve acceptance.
We do not recommend cow hooves, pig ears, natural bones, or hard Nylabones. These are all harder than teeth, and are frequently associated with broken teeth. All chew toys require that you monitor your pet while they are using the product. Never leave a pet unattended while they are enjoying any chew toys.