When it comes to your own oral health care, the rules are pretty simple: brush twice daily, floss once per day, and see your dentist regularly. Your dentist may or may not recommend one of a variety of mouthwashes available, and since you are an adult, you know how to swish and spit all of it out, making it unlikely that you would swallow any of it. You might not be as clear on the rules for taking care of your pet’s mouth…
While it is good practice to brush your pet’s teeth, many pet owners don’t do it—one of the reasons is that many pets won’t tolerate it. Flossing your pet’s teeth is also not likely to go over well. There are dental sprays available, however, and these are a convenient way to keep the bad bacteria levels in your pet’s mouth low. The issue with them is that they often contain alcohol… Is alcohol in pet oral care products a deal breaker, or is it safe enough to use?
Let’s take a look at this controversy and get to the bottom of it.
Why Is There Alcohol in Pet Dental Sprays?
There are a few reasons as to why companies put alcohol in their pet oral care products.
- Alcohol can kill bad bacteria in the mouth that lead to bad breath, dental decay, and gum disease.
- Alcohol can act as an antimicrobial carrier for other ingredients that can kill bacteria. It will keep the solution from going rancid and will dilute other ingredients more effectively than water.
- Alcohol is also inexpensive and allows the companies to make the maximum profit. It functions as a preservative and allows the companies to make large batches of the sprays without the risk of them going bad. This is more profitable than making smaller batches that might spoil in a relatively short period of time.
A Note on Alcohol and Its Effect on Bacteria…
Although alcohol can reduce bad oral bacteria, it can also potentially reduce good oral bacteria such as gm positive aerobic bacteria. This is an issue because a certain amount of good bacteria is necessary, so the goal should be to create a healthy, balanced oral environment and to reduce the biofilm produced by too much bacteria and byproducts on the tooth surface in the gingival sulcus. Too much creates an anaerobic environment that encourages the "bad bacteria" to proliferate, resulting in severe inflammation, as well as tissue and bone destruction, which leads us to the other risks involved with using pet dental sprays that contain alcohol…
Why Is Alcohol in Pet Dental Sprays Potentially Dangerous?
The problem with putting alcohol in pet oral care products is that there are side effects to using alcohol-based products—some are mild while others are severe. Keep in mind that your pet cannot understand the concept of spitting out the product and will swallow whatever you spray in their mouth. This can lead to pets swallowing varying amounts of potentially harmful alcohol. There are 2 ways that damage from alcohol can occur. The first is if a pet were to overdose on alcohol in a short period of time. While your pet will not likely be drinking large quantities of pet oral care spray, a small pet (such as a cat or a small dog) can suffer from alcohol toxicity by ingesting only a very small amount of alcohol. The amount of alcohol in one 4-ounce bottle of pet dental spray could easily overwhelm a small pet’s system and cause symptoms such as…
- Loss of coordination
- Foaming at the mouth
- Loss of consciousness
- Brain damage
A more common issue is the effect of having a very small amount of alcohol over the course of many weeks or months. This can happen to pets of any size and the effects can include…
- Liver damage
- Problems with breathing, kidney function, or the digestive system
- Premature aging symptoms
- Loss of appetite and reduced nutritional intake
- Organ failure
- Early death
As you can see, the risks of using an alcohol-based pet dental spray, particularly over the long term, is usually not worth the potential benefits. If your veterinarian recommends that you use one of these sprays, find out how long you should use it for, how many times you should spray it into your pet’s mouth, and whether your pet is at risk of developing any of the problems listed above.
How Can I Care for My Pet’s Teeth and Gums?
The best way you can care for your pet’s teeth and gums
—reducing the chances of developing bad breath, dental decay, and gum disease—is to brush them daily. You can use plain water or a toothpaste made just for pets. Do not use the toothpaste you use on your own teeth!
Seeing your veterinarian for regular cleanings will also help keep bacteria levels under control. Your vet will tell you when your pet is due for a cleaning. It really depends on how quickly tartar builds up as well as whether Fido or Fluffy has any health conditions that can make it more likely that they will develop a dental infection. There are also dental chews available for dogs. These help scrub plaque and tartar off their teeth. Many dogs enjoy these, so they’re a helpful oral care tool that your pet will consider a treat. However, dental treats should be used sparingly, as they’re often high in carbohydrates and calories, which can contribute to weight gain. Also, some are considered better than others, so make sure to look for the VOHC seal of approval or the manufacturer’s research in plaque and calculus reduction. Finally, using a supplement known to boost the health of the teeth and gums can help, and 1TDC™
is one of these supplements. It can improve your dog’s or cat’s periodontal health and reduce the chances that they will develop gum disease. Giving a supplement in addition to proper brushing, periodic cleanings, and (if your dog enjoys them) dental chews can keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy without having to resort to an alcohol-based spray.