Dental Care for your Pet
Why looking after your pets’ teeth is so important?
- Liver, kidney and heart disease – dental infections may lead to these diseases if left untreated
- Shortened life expectancy – poor dental health can shorten the life of your pet
- Bad breath – a result of neglected teeth and gums
- Unpleasant looking teeth – teeth can look nasty and harbour bacteria
- Weight loss – bad teeth and infected gums can lead to a reduced appetite
Pets can’t brush their teeth like we can, but we all know that lack of oral care results in bad breath, toothache and, eventually, tooth loss and probably many visits to the dentist. Humans have regular check-ups with the dentist and brush and floss our teeth daily, but how often do we check our pet’s teeth?
The first step is to pick a time when both you and your dog are relaxed. Once you start brushing, try and make it fun, perhaps start with a little flavoured toothpaste on your finger to tempt your four-legged pal, then gradually introduce a small brush. There are many types and styles of pet toothbrushes available and various flavours of specialised toothpastes which will coax them into enjoying the experience. Cats are generally less tolerant of brushing than dogs but persevere, it will be worth it in the long run. Never, ever, use human toothpaste for your pet; the fluoride will make them very ill. During your pet’s oral care routine always check the gums as best you can. Inflamed gums can be a sign of oral disease. Gums should be pink (not red or white) and show no signs of swelling. If you look regularly, you will know what is normal and what isn’t.
As mentioned earlier, one of the first signs of oral problems in a dog or cat is offensive smelling breath which can be caused by bacteria growing from food caught in between the teeth, or by gum infection. This can then go on and lead to further problems, especially if accompanied by loss of appetite, excessive drinking or excessive urinating. At this stage you must seek professional advice. There are many chewy treats available now which will not only keep pets occupied and prevent boredom, but also help to keep their teeth clean by reducing the build-up of plaque close to the gum line.
Whether your pet is a dog, cat, rabbit or something smaller, oral health is very important to overall well-being. Dental disease progresses in stages and, if caught early, you can limit any further damage. If you follow a regular oral care routine at home you should avoid your pet needing to visit the vet for professional dentistry and cleaning. However, if he does need more advanced dental care, your vet will happily recommend the treatments needed.
For advanced plaque build-up etc., your vet may recommend a simple procedure which will leave your pet with a lovely clean mouth – all the better for licking you with! Build-up of plaque and tartar and – one of the first tell-tale signs – bad breath, need to be watched out for and treated as quickly as possible. Many dogs and cats show signs of gum disease by the age of three due to the lack of proper oral care. If left unchecked, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to internal organs. Regular care at home can help to prevent oral problems, although it can’t put right a problem which has already established itself. In these cases professional help must be sought
It is never too early to start an oral hygiene programme. In fact, starting from a puppy or a kitten is ideal as it will become part of his or her routine.. Although it is not really necessary to start brushing the baby teeth, it is a good idea to get them used to having you gently massaging their gums and stroking their muzzles so that when you do start brushing it isn’t something new to them.