Dental HealthMarie O'Callaghan
When was the last time you looked at your pets’ teeth? When it comes to looking after our pets we often consider feeding, exercise, training and veterinary care, however, many of us don’t realise the importance of looking after our pets’ teeth. Statistics suggest that by the age of three over 70% of dogs and cats will have some form of dental disease.
Just like us our pets can develop many dental problems, beginning with plaque build-up, leading to tartar deposition, gum disease and tooth loss. As well as causing bad breath (halitosis) and pain, these problems can contribute to more serious health conditions such as heart and kidney disease.
You should ensure that your pets’ teeth are checked at least once a year by a Veterinary Surgeon. Most veterinarians will include a dental check as part of your pet’s yearly booster vaccinations, but, if you are concerned about your pet’s dental health to be sure to book in with your vet straight away. Symptoms of dental disease include;
- Bad breath
- Pawing at the face
- Difficulty eating
- Weight loss
- Poor coat condition
- Red, inflamed or bleeding from the gums
To make sure you don’t miss any of the symptoms above you can check your animals’ teeth at home. See below our top tips on how to make the process easier for you and your pet!
- Examine with care and take your time
- Make sure your pet is relaxed and never just put your hand or finger straight in or around their mouth.
- Start by gently lifting your pets’ jowls to expose the teeth and gum line. The gums should be a light, salmon pink colour and moist. Be sure to check here for any swelling of the gums around the teeth and if there is any bleeding or growths present.
- Once you have assessed the gums move to the teeth, checking if any of the teeth are broken or loose and the extent of the plaque and tartar build-up. Tartar will generally be yellow or brown material sat on the tooth.
Regular tooth brushing is recommended to prevent dental disease and should become part of your daily routine (ideally once a day), however, this can be easier said than done.
If possible, introduce teeth brushing as a puppy or kitten, allowing it to become part of your standard routine. Make sure dental training is as fun, rewarding and fear-free as possible. Ensure that you use a Pet-friendly toothpaste such as Dentisept or Logic Oral Hygiene Gel alongside a soft baby or pet-specific toothbrush. NEVER use human toothpaste or an adult brush as these can be harmful.
Ensure your pet is comfortable with you touching their mouth and lifting their lips before beginning to introduce the toothbrush. Begin slowly lifting your pets’ lips, before beginning to touch the teeth with your fingers, be sure to reward your pet with plenty of praise, alongside a favourite treat or toy. Once you pet is comfortable with this, place a small amount of the desired toothpaste onto your finger, allowing your pet to smell it and lick it, slowly move from allowing them to lick it to introducing the toothpaste to the gums and teeth with your finger before finally adding all of the elements together and gently brushing the teeth and gums with the toothbrush and paste combined. Ensure to praise and reward your pet throughout the process and ensure you’re watching from signs of discomfort or fear.
Alongside toothbrushing ensuring you are feeding a high-quality kibble, which can help to prevent the hardening of plaque. If you have an elderly, brachycephalic (e.g. Pugs, Bulldogs and Chihuahuas or Burmese, Persian and British Shorthair) and dolichocephalic (e.g. Grey hounds and Whippets or Abyssinian or Siamese ) breed that are more prone to dental disease it may be worth discussing with your vet a move onto a prescription dental diet.