Vet charity, PDSA is encouraging pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their pet’s dental health.
With dental disease a common problem for many of our four-legged friends, in their latest Pet Care Column, the PDSA are raising awareness for pet dental care.
We wouldn’t let a day go by without brushing our own teeth, but did you know that it is just as important to ensure your pets have a dental routine to keep their teeth and gums healthy?
PDSA vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, says: “Dental disease causes pain and can be linked to other health problems. It’s often more obvious in older animals but starts early: four in five dogs have serious gum disease by the age of three.
“As with humans, plaque – a mixture of food particles and bacteria – sticks to the surface of our pet’s teeth. Over time, the minerals in pet saliva harden the plaque, turning it into tartar which firmly attaches to the teeth. Problems come when plaque and tartar develop under the gums causing discomfort and damage of the tissue surrounding the teeth.”
The PDSA advise that if allowed to develop, dental disease an damage the gums and, in time, the gums can recede to expose tooth roots, affected teeth may become loose and infected.
Long-standing infections in the mouth can even transfer into the blood and cause other problems around the body, including in the kidneys and heart.
Olivia adds: “The best way to prevent plaque from building up is to brush cats’ and dogs’ teeth every day. If this is introduced in the right way, ideally when they are kitten and puppies, daily brushing 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 each step.”
To help pet owners, Olivia has some top tips to improve your pet’s dental health:
- 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.
- Get them used to the idea of touching around their mouth and gums, starting by gently touching their face, giving positive praise or a treat as a reward. Next, lift up their lips gently, pulling them back so you can look at all their teeth.
- To get them ready to accept a toothbrush, it’s a good idea to start by gently rubbing a soft cloth along their outer gums and teeth – this gets them used to the idea of having something in their mouth.
- Apply toothpaste to your finger and rub along the outer gums and teeth, gradually progressing to a toothbrush. At first try just a single swipe at a time and build up to a daily brushing.
Other ways to help slow the development of dental disease include feeding specially formulated dental diets, using special toys to help with tooth cleaning, offering dental chews and avoiding sticky, sweet foods. Ask your vet to recommend a product so you can get one which is proven to work.
If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as brad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating or rubbing the face with their paws, make an appointment with your vet.