Caring for our pets’ teeth is a very important job. Plaque and tartar build-up can lead to smelly breath, infected gums and can even damage your pet ‘s internal organs. Here’s what to do...
Posted: 15 January 2018
Does your dog or cat possess a gleaming set of pearly white gnashers? If they do, you’re probably already helping them take care of their teeth. Yet many pet owners aren’t aware how important tooth care in pets is, with studies estimating that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over three years of age are suffering with some form of dental disease.
Just like humans, dogs and cats benefit from regular tooth brushing. Without this as part of their regular grooming routine, plaque and tartar can build up. These yucky, bacteria-filled substances not only cause bad breath but, more worryingly, can lead to inflammation and infection, which is where problems can get really serious. In fact, by the time you notice your pet’s breath is on the stinky side, they may already have serious dental disease which requires antibiotics and tooth extractions.
In the worst cases, severe infections can lead to irreversible destruction of the structures supporting the teeth, including the jaw bone, which creates chronic pain. Some teeth may even fall out. Bacteria can also spread through the blood stream to other areas of the body, which can affect the heart, liver or kidneys, causing life-threatening problems.
DID YOU KNOW?
Serious dental problems are preventable if you brush your pet’s teeth regularly – ideally on a daily basis. If you’re not sure how to go about it, your local veterinary team will be only too happy to show you. You’ll need a special pet toothbrush or finger brush and pet toothpaste – which come comes in a range of lip-smacking flavours. Never use human toothpaste as it contains ingredients that are harmful to animals.
Your pet will accept tooth brushing more readily if you get them used to it at a young age. Introducing it to an older pet requires plenty of patience and should be done in stages. Every pet is different, so keep sessions short, go at their pace and give them lots of praise.
Once this becomes part of your pet’s regular routine, they may even start to enjoy the extra attention and meaty-flavoured ‘treat’ of the toothpaste. Dogs Trust have a great video which shows how to make teeth cleaning a fun part of your dog’s day, which you can view here >>
For those dogs who are stubbornly reluctant about having their teeth brushed, your veterinary team can advise on alternatives such as chews, gels, water additives that help keep their mouth healthy. An annual tooth check is also recommended and, even with regular tooth care, a complete scale and polish under anaesthetic may still be required.
There’s no doubt that brushing a cat’s teeth can be a really tricky, but it’s worth giving it a go.
If there’s absolutely no way your feline will put up with having their teeth cleaned, you should never force this upon them. Feeding a good diet can help, such as the award-winning Burgess Wellbeing cat food range. It includes Dental Defence Technology which contains natural fibre and a specialist ingredient which is proven to reduce plaque formation and support healthy teeth and gums.
For fibrevores, such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas, whose teeth grow continually, the issues are not plaque and tartar, but the risk of teeth overgrowing and the development of sharp edges, known as spurs, caused by abnormal wear. Spurs can cut the tongue and cheeks, potentially resulting in soft tissue damage, ulceration and abscesses.
The best way to help fibrevores keep their chompers in tip top condition is to provide plenty of high quality feeding hay as chewing it helps to keep teeth at a healthy length. Burgess Excel Long Stem Feeding Hay is Timothy Hay grown on a farm, cut at the right time and dried within 48 hours. The long, tasty stems satisfy the chewing requirements of fibrevores, providing optimum dental health. As an extra tasty treat, Burgess Excel Gnaw Sticks can also help promote good dental health in our small pets.
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Sources: pdsa.org, dogstrust.org.uk, advancevetcare.co.uk, vets4pets.com