September is National Pet Smile month and PDSA is raising awareness of pet dental care.
Brushing our teeth is a normal part of our daily routine and our pets need that too. With dental disease a common problem for many of our beloved animals, PDSA is encouraging UK pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their pets’ oral health.
PDSA Vet Anna Ewers Clark says: “Dental disease not only causes pain but can be lead to other potentially serious health problems. By two years of age, around 90% of cats and dogs have some form of dental disease. This could be prevented by brushing our pets’ teeth; it’s simple, but effective. We recommended that teeth are brushed daily and it’s never too late to start.”
As with people, dental disease is often linked to a buildup of plaque and tartar. Plaque is mixture of saliva, food and bacteria which turns into a hardened tartar. Over time, plaque and tartar develop below the gum line, causing pain and exposing the root of the tooth to bacteria. lf ignored, dental disease will damage the gums and eventually lead to dental pain and tooth loss. Long-standing infections in the mouth can even spread into the blood and cause problems in other parts of the body, including the kidneys, liver and heart.
Daily tooth brushing for dogs and cats helps prevent plaque build-up. If this is introduced in the right way, ideally when they’re kittens and puppies, it will become normal for them and part of their daily routine. The same technique can be used with older animals, but it may take a little longer for them to become used to it.
- Get your pet used to the taste of pet toothpaste by letting them lick a small amount from the end of your finger. Pet toothpaste doesn’t contain fluoride (which is in human toothpaste) so can be safely swallowed by your pet. It’s also usually a chicken, fish or malt flavour which your pet should enjoy.
- Start by gently touching around their mouth and gums, giving positive praise as a reward. Then start lifting up their lips and gently pulling them back so you can look at all of their teeth.
- Once they’re used to their mouth and gums being touched, gently rub a soft cloth along their outer gums and teeth. Don’t forget to give praise and reassurance.
- Apply toothpaste to your gloved finger and rub along the outer gums and teeth, gradually progressing to a toothbrush. Do this a few times a week and build up to daily brushing.
Feeding specially formulated dental diets using special toys to help with tooth cleaning and avoiding soft or sugary human food can also help slow the development of dental disease. But brushing teeth is the most effective protection.
If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating or rubbing the face with their paws, make an appointment with your vet for a check-up.