A guide to dental health in pets

Just like humans, it’s important to keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy. By the age of three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have developed some form of gum disease.

Poor dental care doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth, the bacteria generated by gum disease could eventually enter their bloodstream and potentially damage their heart liver or kidneys.

 What causes dental problems?

Gum disease is five times more common in dogs than humans, as dogs have a more alkaline mouth. Common signs that your pet may have dental problems include:

– Bad breath

– Yellow or brown teeth

– Changes to eating habits

– Swollen or bleeding gums

– Excessive drooling

– Loose teeth

– Pawing at their mouth

Dental problems in dogs and cats can develop due to a number of reasons, which can include:

Age – dental diseases are common in older pets due to wear and tear of their teeth and gums.

Breeds – some dog breeds are more prone to dental problems, due to the shape of their mouth. These include Yorkshire Terriers, Greyhounds, Whippets, Pugs, Bulldogs and other flat faced dogs.

Diet – a poor diet makes dental diseases more likely.

Baby teeth – a dog’s baby teeth will begin falling out at around 4 months old when their adult teeth will start to come through. If their baby teeth don’t fall out, dental problems are more likely due to an over-crowded mouth.

What is plaque?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids after you eat or drink. These acids can destroy both enamel and cause cavities and gingivitis (gum disease). Plaque can also develop under the gums on tooth roots and break down the bones that support teeth.

Plaque is a colourless to pale yellow and when it is colourless it can be harder to detect, so it’s important to maintain dog dental care.

What causes plaque to develop?

Plaque develops when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starch) are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids. If the bacteria deposits on teeth aren’t removed through regular brushing, they can cause problems and tartar build up.

Plaque can cause inflammation of the gums, which can initially be subtle, but if not removed can cause problems and gum disease.

Small dogs and toy breeds tend to be most likely to develop dental issues. This is because small breeds have smaller mouths, which means they tend to be at a higher risk of overcrowding, which can lead to more plaque or other dental conditions.

How to clean your pet’s teeth

Pet dental care is crucial. Your pet’s teeth have a lot of work to do, dogs use their mouths for more than just eating, they use them to play, explore and taste a lot of their surroundings too. If their teeth aren’t properly cared for, it can cause problems.

Dogs

Prevention is always better than cure. It’s important to know how to brush your dog’s teeth and to start brushing them daily with a special dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Don’t use human toothpaste, as this contains chemicals that can be toxic to animals.

It’s a good idea to start brushing their teeth when young, as they can get used to it as part of their routine. It’s never too late to start though and older dogs will soon get used to having their teeth brushed. Take things slowly and get them used to having their teeth cleaned over a few weeks. Let them taste their new dog safe toothpaste so they think of brushing their teeth as a treat not a chore.

You can help to get your dog used to having their mouth touched by gently rubbing a soft cloth along their gums. Gradually move on by using a brush that fits over your finger. This will help to get your dog used to the feeling of their teeth being brushed.

When they are comfortable and ready, use a proper pet toothbrush with a longer handle, which will help you reach all of their teeth.

Cats

Brushing your cat’s teeth is a great way to avoid dental disease. Ideally you should introduce dental care from a young age, to get them used to having their teeth touched.

Buy specialised toothpaste for your cat. Never use human toothpaste. Begin by putting your cat’s toothpaste on your finger and offering it to them to lick. Be sure to buy a toothbrush that is designed for cats.

Choose a time of day you can stick to in order to make teeth brushing a part of your cat’s normal routine. Make sure you are calm and comfortable.

Slowly and gently pull back your cat’s lips and touch their teeth with the toothbrush, initially before soothing your cat. Repeat this daily for several days before starting to brush their teeth. Only start brushing when they are comfortable.

To brush their teeth, apply the bristles to the teeth at a 45-degree angle, reaching both the tooth surface and just beneath the gum margin.

Natural plaque remover

Consider using a natural plaque remover for dogs such as, Nutraplaque from Nutravet, which is a completely natural product that provides an advanced double action formula to help aid oral health. Pet oral health supplements should always be used alongside daily teeth brushing, not instead of.

Ask your vet

Speak to your vet if you are worried about your pet’s health. Regular vet visits can allow them to keep an eye on your pet’s teeth and gums, as well as other health issues that may arise.