We wouldn’t let a day go by without brushing our teeth, but did you know it’s just as important to ensure our pets have a dental routine to keep their teeth and gums healthy?
This year PDSA has been raising awareness of pet dental care. With dental disease a common problem for many of our four-legged friends, the vet charity is encouraging UK pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their pets’ dental health.
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.”
If allowed to develop, dental disease will damage the gums and, in time, the gums can recede to expose tooth roots, affected teeth may become loose and infection. 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.
“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 kittens 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.”
Olivia’s top tips to improve your pets’ 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 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 bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating or rubbing the face with their paws, make an appointment with your vet.
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