Making Resolutions With Your Pet

It’s customary for people to make resolutions at the first of the year and for many people, those resolutions are broken early in the year. I rarely make a resolution about my own life. I’m fairly content, and I know from experience that a resolution to “eat fewer sweets” isn’t going to last.

If I do make a resolution, it’s more likely to have to do with my dogs, and those resolutions I do try to keep. This year, my resolution is to begin brushing Tegan’s teeth. I should have started getting him used to the idea when he was younger, but I’m hoping he’ll be okay with it.

Dogs (and cats) don’t get cavities the way people do, but in both dogs and cats, plaque can build up and that plaque can harden into tarter. This can lead to gum abscesses and the bacteria from these abscesses can circulate through your pet’s system and can lead to serious problems, including pneumonia, heart, liver, or kidney problems.

For both cats and dogs, begin teaching them to accept teeth cleaning by wrapping your finger in a piece of gauze and gently rubbing your pet’s teeth and gums. Initially, it might help to flavor the gauze with some beef or chicken stock or with water from a can of tuna.

Once your pet is used to you putting your finger in his mouth, you can get a toothbrush specifically for pets. Other choices are pretreated wipes, or small plastic brushes that fit over your finger. Your pet may accept these more readily if you use a special pet toothpaste. These come in flavors that your pet will enjoy.

Never use toothpaste made for humans. They are too foamy, and since dogs and cats can’t be taught to “rinse and spit”, they tend to swallow the paste, and fluoride is dangerous if too much is swallowed.

Ideally, you should clean your pet’s teeth daily, but three times a week is also a good formula. Even once a week is better than nothing at all.

Your pet may still need a professional cleaning occasionally and that’s not surprising, since we humans brush and floss, and still rely on our dentists to do a more thorough job of cleaning than we can do at home.

During a professional cleaning, your veterinarian will anesthetize your dog or cat and will remove any tartar buildup, and then clean and polish your pet’s teeth. If your vet finds has any broken or cracked teeth, she will pull them at this time. Before the cleaning, your veterinarian may run a blood test, especially if your pet is older. This is a safety precaution to make sure your furry pal won’t have any problems with the anesthesia.

Dental health is just as important for your cat as it is for you. Safeguard your pet by teeth-cleaning into your routine.

With any pet, whether you clean their teeth or not, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog or cat’s breath smells different from normal, if he’s drooling or pawing at his mouth, or if he has trouble eating hard food, or no longer wants to play with toys. Any of these symptoms may mean dental problems, which, as mentioned, can lead to life-threatening complications.

My other pet-related resolution is to try to give Tegan more exercise. He and Gael play well together but Gael is almost eight years old, and at just under 10 months, Tegan has way more bounce than she does. It’s harder in the winter when there’s snow, or, so far this year, mud, but by spring, I hope to improve and that will help with the only resolution I made about myself, which was to get more exercise. My plan is more, and longer walks.

I’m also trying to think of more things for Tegan to think about. He’s smart and I want to put his brain to work, as well as his body. It may be time to haul out some obedience jumps that have been living in our basement, and to study a book I own about teaching a dog tricks. He’s happy to jump through a hoop, but otherwise, his behaviors are limited to “sit” and “down.”

For everyone, there’s another resolution we should all make and that’s to take the time to enjoy our pets. We need to remember why we got them and how short a time we’ll have them and give them our best all year long.