Did you know that dogs and cats can get plaque on their teeth just like humans? Plaque is formed by saliva, bacteria and food particles. If not taken care of, the plaque can quickly turn to tartar—a hard, yellowish deposit on the teeth. Plaque can also cause gingivitis, a gum infection that is the first stage of periodontal disease. To keep your pet’s teeth healthy, try one or more of the following types of pet dental products.

Pet Toothpaste

This canine toothpaste has a poultry flavor that dogs love. Petrodex

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Most people are aware that periodontal disease is a disease of the gums and teeth often caused by plaque and gingivitis. What many people don’t know—including many pet owners—is that dogs and cats can suffer from the same problems. Brushing your pet’s teeth is one of the best ways to prevent periodontal disease. However, it’s very important not to use human toothpaste on pets. Most dog toothpastes contain scrubbing ingredients that help wash away plaque and stains. One special kind, called enzymatic toothpaste, features enzymes that help reduce the bacteria in your dog’s mouth, which can help with bad breath as well as reducing tartar buildup. While many pets balk at brushing at first, stick with it and soon they’ll treat it as an everyday routine, just like people do.

Dental Water Additives

This dental water additive cleans teeth and freshens breath for dogs and cats. Oxyfresh

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If your dog is not into brushing or you just don’t want to take on the hassle of brushing, there are some effective alternatives. A good dental water additive is easy to add to your dog’s water dish and provides many benefits. Among those are eliminating bacteria not only in your dog’s water dish, but also in your dog’s mouth. This obviously leads to a healthier dog, but also helps with the bad breath that dogs commonly have because of the bacteria residing in their mouths. The side effect of reducing bacteria is breaking down plaque and tartar, two foes of dental health in both humans and canines. For safety’s sake, when using these products, read the label carefully to ensure you are giving the dog the amount recommended by the manufacturer.

Brushing Alternatives

These dental chews help fight plaque and tartar by using a dog’s natural chewing tendency and love for treats. Greenies

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Even easier are treats made specifically for cleaning your pet’s teeth, and these can be effective on both dogs and cats. The chewing of these specially formulated treats can help reduce the buildup of saliva, bacteria and food on the teeth. They are also great for reducing plaque and tartar. They’re even helpful for dogs and cats that have swollen, bleeding, or irritated gums, and, like the other products mentioned, another byproduct is fresher breath. Most dental chews are made of harder material than typical dog treats, since they work by scraping tartar and plaque off teeth when the dog or cat is chewing on them. Like most dog and cat treats, too much of a good thing can lead to an overweight pet, so don’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommendation. While dental chews are quite effective, they aren’t a substitute for regular dental cleaning. Consult your veterinarian for more information.