Pet dental care advice
Dental disease is very common in cats and dogs. Surveys show that after the age of three years, about seven out of ten pets have some kind of tooth disorders. If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to the dog’s teeth, gums and jawbones. Stopping the build-up of plaque can prevent dental disease.
Periodontal (gum) disease is one of the most common conditions seen by veterinary surgeons today. The problems begin when plaque and tartar are allowed to build up on your pet’s teeth.
Plaque harbours the bacteria, which can infect gum tissue and the roots of teeth, causing disease and tooth loss. The bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and may cause damage to organs. Recent studies have shown that heart, liver and kidney disease can be associated with these bacteria.
What are the signs of poor oral health?
- Persistent bad breath
- Sensitivity around mouth
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty eating and chewing food
- Pawing at mouth
- Loose or missing teeth
- Bleeding, inflamed or receding gums
- Tartar (creamy-brown hard material on teeth)
It is important to remember that pets with dental pain may not show obvious signs and they frequently maintain a normal appetite.
If you are concerned about your pet’s teeth, contact the practice and arrange a free dental health check.
Good dental care for dogs and cats
The first step in promoting oral health is to have your pet thoroughly examined by a veterinary surgeon. It may be necessary for your pet’s teeth to be cleaned above and below the gum-line. This simple cleaning procedure requires your pet to be anaesthetised. Recent advancements in anaesthetic techniques and materials have greatly reduced the risks previously associated with this procedure.
It is then recommended that an oral hygiene programme is started at home. A good cat or dog dental cleaning routine involves daily tooth brushing as it is considered to be the most effective way of removing plaque. Special toothbrushes and toothpaste designed for dogs and cats are available.
Dental products such as toothpaste are available at our surgery. This toothpaste appeals to pets and does not need to be rinsed. Human toothpastes or baking soda should not be used as they contain ingredients, which should not be swallowed.
Pet toothbrushes are ultra soft and are shaped to fit your pet’s mouth and teeth. However, any soft bristled brush which will reach the back of the mouth is adequate. Brushes should be replaced every 4-6 weeks.
When brushing is not practical, an antibacterial oral rinse or gel may be recommended. These products are specially made for pets and with daily use can help to slow the build-up of dental plaque.
Cat and dog dental care: How to brush your pet’s teeth
Brushing your pet’s teeth is easy and does not take much time. The first step is to pick a time when both you and your pet are relaxed. For the first few days simply hold your pet, as you would normally do when you are petting him/her. Gently stroke the outside of the cheeks with your finger for a minute or two. After each session, reward your pet with an appropriate treat and lots of praise.
For the next few days – after your pet has become comfortable with this activity – place a small amount of the toothpaste on your finger and let your pet sample the flavour.
Next, introduce your pet to a pet toothbrush or finger brush. Place a small amount of toothpaste on the brush and gently raise your pet’s upper lip and place the brush against an upper tooth. With a slow circular motion gently brush only that tooth and the adjoining gum-line.
Each day gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. But go slowly. Do not continue beyond your pet’s point of comfort. Build up to approximately 30 seconds of brushing per side.
After each session, reward your pet with a treat and lots of praise. Brushing should be done daily but missing 1-2 days per week would not be a big concern.
Diet can be a major factor in the development of plaque and tartar. Soft foods, or brittle dry kibble that crumbs on impact, may contribute to plaque build-up and subsequent periodontal disease.
We, therefore, recommend food containing special non-brittle fibrous, as they can be helpful in preventing plaque build-up above the gum line. Hill’s t/d, which we stock, is considered the best of its type.
Dental chews can be a useful addition to brushing and/or diet but should not be relied on alone.