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Cure for bad pet breath could be a toothbrush away

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2013 at 3:27 am •  Published: January 15, 2013

Christie Keith, a communications consultant to animal welfare and veterinarian groups, said she spends about two minutes each night brushing the teeth of her three dogs after dinner. The Davisburg, Mich., resident believes most dog owners needlessly fear brushing their dogs' teeth.

"But cats are another story," she added.

Harvey said that's because cats' mouths are smaller, their teeth sharper and they could care less about bonding with a human during designated tooth time.

Keith said she took it slow when she began brushing the teeth of her 8-year-old greyhound Val. She started with one tooth at a time and used a foamless flavored gel that dogs can swallow.

"She started to nibble (on the toothbrush) and I rubbed it on her front teeth. I didn't make a big deal out of it. I didn't worry about brushing the first half dozen times. It was just a little bonding thing. Eventually, I brushed one tooth. Now she stands there and lets me brush all her teeth," she said.

The gel doesn't require water to rinse, lessening the likelihood of a mess. A year later, "(Val's) gums look healthy to me, and it doesn't seem she has any more tartar," Keith said.

Oral care products for animals are generally not regulated by any federal agency, although the Food and Drug Administration monitors all products that claim to prevent or slow disease. The agency does not test products that claim cleaner teeth, fresher breath or the reduction of plaque and tartar, Harvey said.

The VOHC is not a regulatory agency but it uses American Dental Association guidelines to test pet plaque and tartar products. Test requests are voluntary but companies pay nonrefundable submission and annual maintenance fees. Products are given a VOHC seal if they pass.

The council has approved a human, ADA-compliant, flathead toothbrush with soft bristles and rounded tips for pet use. A child's brush can be used for small pets and an adult size for big dogs, but don't use human toothpaste on pets, Harvey warned.

Such toothpastes contain detergents that foam and pets will swallow it instead of spitting it out, he said.

Harvey said he can't comment on any product VOHC hasn't tested, but as a rule, any wipe, tongue cleaner or additive should be beneficial — although nothing beats brushing.