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New Year's Resolutions Series: 3. Maintaining your pet’s teeth

Did you know that dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen in veterinary practices? Unsurprisingly, looking after your pet’s teeth is just as important as looking after our own.

This is why brushing your cat’s or dog’s teeth regularly will help keep their mouth clean and healthy. But if this sounds unrealistic, don’t worry. We have some great tips for you.

So what is dental disease?

It all starts with plaque: a layer of sticky film containing bacteria which forms on your pet’s teeth after each meal. If plaque is not removed regularly, this will gradually harden to form a brown or yellow substance on the teeth called tartar. Tartar provides the perfect surface for bacteria to thrive in, which can lead to inflammation of the gums. This is known as gingivitis, and if left untreated, it can develop into a serious condition called periodontitis.

With periodontitis, the gums become infected, which can result in tooth loss. In severe cases, bacteria may enter the body via the bloodstream and cause damage to organs. Gingivitis and early-stage periodontitis, if caught early enough, can be reversible with professional descaling and ongoing home care. However, prevention is always better than cure!

With a diet of raw meat and bones, wild carnivores have natural protection against tooth decay. But the commercial foods we give to our domestic pets can contribute to faster bacterial growth in the mouth.

Common signs of dental problems

  • Bad breath (usually the first sign of dental disease)
  • Tartar and/or reddening of the gums
  • Yellow or brown teeth
  • Excessive salivation
  • Pain when eating
  • Loss of appetite

Why should I clean my pet’s teeth?

Brushing your pet’s teeth at least 3 times a week is the best way to remove harmful bacteria. However, we understand this is not always an option. Cats in particular will put up a fight should a toothbrush come anywhere near their mouth. The good news is you can provide a dental care regime without the bloodshed battle.

Ideally, brushing your pet’s teeth when they’re young is the best time to start. But it’s never too late, as older pets will soon get used to regular brushing.

How can I get started?

  • Introduce some pet toothpaste first as a treat. This can be placed on a paw or given directly.
  • Try tooth brushing slowly so your pet becomes used to having their teeth touched. Start by just touching the teeth and gums with a tissue, gradually moving on to a finger toothbrush and lightly brushing the area.
  • When your pet fully accepts the finger brush, you can change to a pet toothbrush. The longer handle will help you reach all the areas in the mouth.
  • Use a pet-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste. Pet toothpaste is specially formulated for animals and is safe when swallowed.
  • Consider incorporating a treatment to help reduce plaque (see our recommendations below).

Recommended products

In addition to brushing your pet’s teeth (or when brushing simply isn’t possible), there are a number of products designed to help prevent dental disease in pets. These can be added to drinking water (like Vet Aquadent), sprinkled onto food (like Plaque Off) or used as toothpaste (like Logic Oral Hygiene Gel).

Giving your dog a daily dental chew is a great way to remove and prevent plaque from building up. Our pups’ favourites are Dentastix, Veggident and Logic Orozyme. But be mindful not to overfeed, as some dental chews can be high in calories.

Regular annual vet check-ups are important too, as your pet’s mouth can tell your vet much about their general wellbeing. In some occasions, your vet may recommend a dental descaling. Dental treatments can be quite costly and often involve your pet being put under general anaesthesia. Therefore, having a good dental routine could be key in saving your pet from further complications and distress.