September marks 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 something that our pets need too. With dental disease a common problem for many of our beloved animals, the vet charity is encouraging pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their pets’ oral health.
PDSA Vet Nurse, Nina Downing, said: “Dental disease not only causes pain but can be linked to other potentially serious health problems. By three years of ae, most dogs and cats are showing signs of starting with some form of gum disease. This could be prevented by brushing our pets’ teeth; it’s simple, but effective. We recommend that teeth are brushed daily and it’s never too late to start.”
As with people, plaque sticks to the surface of our pets’ teeth. The minerals in pet saliva reacts with the plaque, turning it into tartar, which firmly attaches to the teeth.
Over time, plaque and tartar develop below the gum line, causing pain and exposing the root of the tooth to bacteria. If ignored, dental disease will damage the gums and eventually lead to tooth loss.
Long-standing infections in the mouth can even transfer into the blood and cause problems in other parts of the body, including the kidneys, liver and heart.
PDSA say: “Daily brushing prevents 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. It doesn’t have fluoride like human toothpaste so can be safely swallowed, and is usually a chicken, fish or malt flavour which your pet should enjoy.
- Start with 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 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 sticky, sweet foods can also help to 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, the PDSA advise to make an appointment with your vet for a check-up.