How is your pet's breath? Bad breath is one of the first signs of declining oral health, and can start in cats and dogs as young as 3 years old

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, happens when the teeth are not properly cared for and plaque forms. When plaque isn't removed, it hardens into tartar, which inflames the sensitive gum tissue. Bacteria from the plaque and tartar can also migrate into the gums, causing pain, infection, loose teeth and systemic illness.

Fortunately, there are many products on the market to help you prevent gum disease and poor oral health in your pet. Here are three that you'll want to check out:

1. Pet toothbrushes.

If you can brush your pet's teeth every day, you can remove some of the harmful plaque build-up. There are three main types of tools to brush your pet's teeth:

  • An actual brush, which resembles a child's toothbrush.
  • A finger brush, which fits over your finger and has soft, nubby bristles.
  • A sponge, which you can use to wipe your pet's teeth.

Choose whichever one works best for you and your pet, as the most effective one will be the one you can use consistently and easily. You will likely need to start small and work up to full teeth brushing, and the process is easier if you start when your pet is young.

2. Toothpaste.

Don't use a product made for humans on your pet! Pet toothpaste can be just as effective but will taste better and be more enjoyable for your cat or dog. Also, pet toothpastes don't contain foaming agents that could make your pet sick.

Older pets will benefit from a paste that contains some fluoride, but these should not be used for animals under 6 months old. 

You may need to experiment with flavors to find the one your cat or dog likes best. Most pet pastes are meat-flavored, but there can be variations between brands or flavors.

3. Dental chews and chew toys.

Any chewing action on a hard surface helps remove plaque and reduce tartar build-up. Look for a dental chew that is sized appropriately for your dog's mouth. Smaller dental treats also exist for cats.

Toys that are meant to last can offer the same benefits as a dental chew treat, but they are aimed more at dogs. Few cats will settle down with a rubber bone and gnaw contentedly. 

Always supervise your pet when it is chewing on a chew toy, rawhide or dental treat. While rare, there are cases of animals choking on a piece that breaks off. 

If you suspect that your dog or cat is developing tartar or gum disease, always consult a veterinarian like Petland Albuquerque. In the meantime, prevent oral health problems with pet supplies that help your dog's and cat's teeth.