You may be asking yourself why you should keep your dog’s or cat’s teeth pearly white. Well, just like with us, toothache is very painful and poor dental hygiene can lead to further health complications. It is very hard for our pets to tell us when they are in pain, so they can suffer with this for a long time before it is noticed. Shockingly, by the age of 3 the majority of dogs and cats have dental disease. Even worse is that dental disease is completely preventable – this blog is to help all owners to be aware of how you can prevent this condition in your furry friends.
Dental disease is all caused by plaque (a sticky coating over the teeth that bacteria can grow on), if this is not removed then it causes redness, soreness and infection of the gums. This can lead to tooth instability and eventually tooth loss. If the plaque is left on teeth this calcifies to tartar (brown, hard material you can see on the teeth). Once the tartar has formed, it becomes much harder to remove meaning prevention is key to battling the disease.
Signs of dental disease include drooling, ungroomed coat (cats especially) and bad breath. Not eating or struggling to eat are possible, but surprisingly rare until the later stages of disease. If you see any of these signs then bring your pet in for a check-up. We will check their teeth for signs of dental disease. In more severe cases, we may have to remove some rotten teeth, and for a full examination your pet will usually need to go under a general anaesthetic. When they are asleep it is much easier to give the teeth a full check over and identify those that need removing. We will also remove any tartar build up and scale the teeth to remove any plaque. If your pet has had extractions they will need pain relief and should generally only eat soft food for 2 weeks after.
The good news…
This is completely preventable (so you can breathe a sigh of relief!). Just like in humans, brushing the teeth removes the plaque and stops the bacteria growing on the teeth and causing dental disease. This may seem completely impossible but, with lots of patience, most dogs and cats will allow you to brush their teeth. We know it can be very difficult to know where to begin, so here is a list of tips to help get you started:
1. Buy some pet friendly toothpaste, this is often meat flavoured so they like the taste. Do not use human toothpaste – if they swallow this then they can become sick. You can pick this up at a pet store or from us. You can also buy a dog friendly finger brush (these have softer bristles).
2. Take a gradual approach, build it up over several months (the patience will be worthwhile!) Only move on to the next step in the process once your pet is fully comfortable with the current step.
3. Start with letting them lick the toothpaste off your finger, then put the brush on your finger and let them lick toothpaste from that. Then you can gradually put the brush into the animal’s mouth. Once they are happy with the brush in their mouth, start with putting the brush on the canine teeth. Then add in gentle brushing motions (just like you would your own teeth!)
4. Ideally you should do this daily but this can still be helpful several times a week.
5. Reward your pet every time – treats and play are a great way to do this. This will help your pet to associate the brushing with enjoyment.
Other things that you can do alongside brushing teeth that can help:- Dental diet – this is specifically made to help break tartar off teeth as the biscuit breaks higher up the tooth.
– Dental chews – these also break tartar off teeth. Be careful with these – they are often very high in calories! Too many of these and your pet will begin putting on weight which is far from ideal!
– Chew toys – this is a calorie free way to break off tartar!