Brushing your pets' pearly whites may not be something you think about on a daily basis, but it's extremely important.
Since dental disease in pets is often undetected, it's quite common. "A staggering 80 per cent of dogs and cats have dental disease, which in most cases, is preventable," says Veronica Monaghan, Chief Veterinary Officer at Greencross Vets. "While many people believe that bad breath is normal for their pets, it can be an indication of a deeper problem."
Thankfully we can help our furry friends avoid dental disease by feeding them the right food, using a pet toothbrush, giving them dental treats or chews, adding a water additive and playing with dental toys.
How do you clean your pets' teeth?
"Brushing your pets’ teeth daily can help control plaque build-up and prevent periodontal disease," Veronica says. If your pet is calm and relaxed, brushing their teeth with a special toothbrush and toothpaste is recommended. Veronica shares her top tips:
- "Selecting the right toothbrush is imperative. Opting for a soft toothbrush is what is recommended.
- Special dog and cat toothbrushes are available at Greencross Vet Clinics and Petbarn stores. Alternatively, toddler brushes are also good for small cats and dogs.
- Selecting the right toothpaste is very important. In regards to toothpaste, human toothpaste should never be used as it is not designed to be swallowed and has ingredients that can upset your pets' stomach. Pet toothpaste is often chicken or beef flavoured, which may help your pet accept it. Pet toothpaste is also safe if it is swallowed. Sometimes our pets will like the toothpaste too much. In this case, we may suggest dipping the toothbrush in an oral rinse instead."
The best way to introduce brushing your pets teeth is to follow these steps, Veronica says:
- "Begin slowly and initial sessions should be brief and well rewarded.
- Get your pet used to the toothbrush by dipping it in tuna juice, chicken or beef stock or just use water.
- Next try offering the toothbrush with the paste, without brushing. Allow your pet to taste the paste.
- When your pet is comfortable with the brush try brushing one or two strokes on a few teeth. Slowly increase the brushing as your pet becomes more comfortable.
- Start at the front of the mouth. Pets are often more accepting of this.
- Ensure you offer plenty of praise and a tasty treat after each brush."
If your pet is particularly resistant, there are alternatives. "Dental treats and chews, dental diets and dental toys can all help in preventing your dog or cat from contracting dental disease," Veronica adds.
What can dental disease mean for our pets?
Not only can dental disease mean bad breath, oral pain and tooth decay or loss, but Veronica says that if left untreated can equal more dire consequences. "Severe dental diseases can contribute to heart, live and kidney problems," she reveals.
How can we identify bad dental health in our pets?
Veronica lists there common signs of dental disease in pets that we should keep an eye out for:
- Discolouration or build-up of plaque/ tartar on teeth
- Bad breath
- Difficulty eating or loss of appetite
- Redness or inflammation of the gum
- Pawing at the mouth
- Swelling under the eye
- Discomfort, lumps or bleeding around the mouth
So, take some time to care for your pets' teeth and they will certainly thank you for it in the long run.