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Expert Advice on Pet Health and Nutrition

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WebMD Expert Discussion: Do You Brush Your Pet’s Teeth?

You feed them, give them plenty of water, take them for walks, brush their fur, and so on. But in all you do to care for your beloved pets, are you remembering to brush their teeth? Do you even need to?

The answer is emphatically yes, says WebMD guest veterinarian Will Draper, DVM, in the online discussion Caring for Your Pet. Dogs and cats are vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease, just as people are. In fact, Draper reports that by age 3, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of gum disease -- which can be painful and lead to the loss of teeth, or even infections that can damage the heart, liver, lungs, and kidneys.

Ideally, you should brush your pet's teeth at least once a day. But Draper knows that's much easier said than done. If you can't manage frequent brushings, be sure to have a vet check your pet's teeth once or twice a year, depending on their breed, age, and size. And talk to your vet about your options. There are certain treats and diets that can help make up for the lack of regular brushing.

One woman described the process of trying to get her 1-year-old cat used to regular brushings because she's prone to gingivitis. Although her cat likes the flavor of the toothpaste, she just wants to lick it off the brush and fights the actual brushing!

A dog owner reported that she does her best to keep her dogs' teeth brushed, using a flavored paste that they love. “It doesn't give the 'clean and fresh' smell I'd prefer, but it makes it more palatable for them!”

Another community member asked what she can do about temperamental cats that would bite if you even tried brushing their teeth. Draper recommends dental treats that contain the tartar-fighting antiseptic, chlorhexidine. Fortunately, these treats are designed for use with dogs and cats.

What kind of dental care do you use to prevent oral and medical problems for your own pets?

Discussion led by William Draper, DVM Guest Expert
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Dr. Will opened Georgia’s first accredited small animal emergency room in 2000. He’s been named Best Vet by Atlanta Magazine since 2004... More

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Pet Health and Nutrition Advice

Veterinarian Will Draper gives tips on the best nutrition and health care for your dog or cat.
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