If you have a BFF – a “best furry friend,” that is – then you’ve probably noticed the trend in insurance policies for pets. Well, there’s another trend many pet care professionals would love you to adopt: daily preventive dental care for dogs and cats.
The American Pet Products Association estimated that U.S. spending on pet-related expenses topped $55.53 billion in 2013, and nearly a quarter of that amount ($14.21 billion) went toward veterinary care. Both numbers represent spending increases over 2012.
If you have pets, then you’ve probably seen a few pet store and vet bills as well. And like many pet owners, you may be responding to rising costs with a focus on prevention.
Pet dental emergencies are on the rise. Preventing pets from landing in the veterinary ER is a major focal point of National Pet Dental Health Month, which takes place in February. So there’s no better time to draw attention to proper oral care for pets.
However, as the American Veterinary Medical Association (one of the sponsors of the month-long event) reminds pet owners, “While February is National Pet Dental Health Month, dental health should be a daily habit for pet owners all year long.”
Making pet dental care a daily habit
A daily habit? When you think about it, it makes good sense. Like dental care for people, taking care of your pets’ teeth is very important, both for their dental health and for their overall health. Numerous pet health issues have been associated with poor oral health.
But how do you make dog dental care or cat dental care a daily habit? When it comes to establishing a new habit, preparation is key. With that simple but powerful principle in mind, here are some ways you can get prepared to make pet dental care part of your daily routine.
Set a regular time
To get into the habit of taking care of your pet’s teeth every day, choose a time that meets your needs. Plan your pet’s oral care at the time that will be most convenient for you.
If you have to rush off to work in the morning, set aside time in the evening. If mornings are better for you, do it then. Whatever you decide, be sure you set yourself up to succeed.
Plan to devote at least 5 minutes to your pet’s dental routine. It may also help to pick a time when your pet is normally in a more restful frame of mind, such as after a long walk or play session.
Choose a comfortable place
To help you succeed in making dental care a part of your daily routine, choose a comfortable place where you can have your pet’s full attention. If you’ve chosen a regular time, you may already have a specific place in mind. If not, think about a place where you and your pet already spend quiet time together.
If the two of you enjoy snuggling on the couch in front of the TV, that may be the ideal place for daily dental care. In the habit of spending time together on the back porch before coming in from a run? Make that the spot for your dental date each day.
The point is: tap into the good vibe you and your pet already associate with a favorite time and place to make daily dental care an enjoyable part of the time you get to spend together.
Keep it together
Finally, to keep your new habit on track, get organized. You don’t want to spend any extra time getting your supplies together or searching for something that’s missing. Avoid distractions by making a kit of everything you’ll need for your pet’s dental care regimen. Then, keep the kit in the location where it will be used.
Your pet’s daily dental care kit doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy specialty products designed for pets, or you may use simple household items like a bit of gauze instead of a toothbrush or a paste of baking soda and water instead of toothpaste.
Just be aware that there is one thing no pet dental kit should ever contain: human toothpaste. Some ingredients can make cats and dogs sick. To stay on the safe side, never use human dental products for your pet.
Learn more about pet dental care
Just as a daily dental care routine helps to keep you and your family healthy, daily dental care can be a great first step toward protecting your pet’s health. But like oral care for humans, it’s really only a start. To learn more, talk with your veterinarian.
Ask your vet about the specific items your pet dental care kit should contain. And while you’re at it, ask about regular dental checkups, any dental warning signs you should be on the lookout for, and what oral conditions or symptoms should prompt you to call for an appointment right away.
Do you brush your pet’s teeth regularly? What tips can you share?
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Learn about human oral care and dental insurance basics in the Dental Resources section.