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Mon, Feb. 24

All About Pets: Be counted among the tooth-brushers!

Lacy tolerates Lisa brushing her teeth, unaware of how beneficial it is to her overall health. (Christy Powers/Courier)

Lacy tolerates Lisa brushing her teeth, unaware of how beneficial it is to her overall health. (Christy Powers/Courier)

February is Pet Dental Health Month sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Very few of us pay close attention to our pet’s teeth unless something unusual happens, such as unusually bad breath or a tooth is loose or missing. It is estimated that only 2% of pet owners brush their pet’s teeth regularly. Naturally, a daily brushing is recommended. (This is probably the last thing you want to think about after you brush your own teeth and are ready to crawl into bed after a long day.)

Periodontal Disease is gum disease caused by plaque and tarter build up and is the most common dental condition found in our pets.

Eighty percent of our dogs exhibit evidence of this condition by age 3. Pretty incredible. And the results of this disease are not only bad breath and yucky looking teeth, but potential internal health problems.

Have you noticed that your dog’s breath is more unpleasant than normal. Are the gums pinkish in color? Time to take some action — better now than never.

Proper care of your pet’s teeth is not fun and games. But it is so important and should begin when your pet is a baby. Sit with the pet on your lap or next to you while you are watching the news. Very gently begin moving your finger around his lips. Gradually, move the lips apart and move your finger around on the teeth and gums. This is not a quick process and he will never love it, but slowly he will get accustomed to your probing in his mouth. (I will agree that this is easier with a dog than it is with a cat. Some recommend putting the cat in a pillow case to ease the process.)

Incidentally, if your pet is not a baby and has not been properly introduced to this brushing process, it is never too late. Use the same process at any age.

When the pet is somewhat comfortable with your intrusions, introduce the toothbrush. I just read that pets love coconut oil, and putting a bit of it on the brush makes it more tolerable.

Take your time moving the brush slowly around in the dog’s mouth. When you think he is ready, introduce some cleaner. Never, ever use people toothpaste on your pet. It can make them extremely sick. There are several toothpastes made especially for pets. Your vet certainly has recommendations.

My vet, using a holistic approach, recommends two products, both manufactured by Maxi/Guard. One is a liquid, OraZn, which you can apply directly to the gums. I put in on the toothbrush and swirl it around. The other product, Oral Cleansing Wipes, just requires taking one of these thin wipes and moving it around the gumline and emphasizing areas which might appear a little pink. It is so easy and so very effective.

Never too late for a New Year’s resolution. This one can save teeth and money. Care for those teeth!

In last Tuesday’s Courier, it talked about the Spay and Neuter license plates. You see all sorts of information on our license plates these days, but this one is very significant, sponsored by the Arizona Companion Animal Spay and Neuter Committee. These license plates are very recognizable with a cute logo of a cat and dog and followed by the words, “Pets enrich our lives.” The extra fee for these specialty plates is only $25 per year. Certainly a wonderful investment. United Animal Friends has been awarded three grants which can only be used for spay and neuter. If you have a pet but cannot quite afford the cost of neutering, visit wwwunitedanimalfriends.org. They would love to help.

A recent column talked about “Final Decisions”: letting go of a precious pet and the value of cremation so that our buddy will always be with us. A reader, Dean, sent me information about a very talented woman who incorporates ashes into her blown glass jewelry. Check out ashbeads.com to read about her history and beautiful, amazing artwork.

(I certainly love hearing from readers with wonderful information like this. Many thanks.)

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at cpowerspak@gmail.com.

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