Dental hygiene is an important part of caring for your pet and prevention is the key to good health!
I spoke to Dr Christine Hawke from Sydney Pet Dentistry about the best way to keep our pet’s teeth clean and healthy, and she shared some great home care advice!
Dental disease is common in pets, she said. Dogs and cats can suffer from periodontal disease, fractured teeth, orthodontic problems and dead teeth due to trauma or wear.
“It’s important for your pet to have an annual dental check by a veterinarian, particularly if they are young, senior or predisposed to dental problems,” she said.
Your vet will examine your pet for oral pain and infection, including red gums (gingivitis), accumulation of plaque, tartar and pus, loose or damaged teeth, lumps or swellings in the mouth and – brace yourself – bad breath!
“Bad breath is abnormal and a sign of infection. Signs of infection are a decreased appetite, difficulty eating, dropping food or chewing on one side,” she said.
“Important thing to understand that pets will not stop eating unless the pain is excruciating, so owners should not rely on this as a sign, otherwise pets may suffer for months or years without treatment.”
The aim of dental care at home is to minimise the build-up of plaque on the teeth and prevent hardening of plaque to form tartar. But with such an array of products on the market – from chews and toys to chemical rinses and more – how do you care for your pet’s teeth properly?
Dr Hawke shares some helpful tips, starting with a visit to your vet to examine your pet’s teeth. Understanding the dental problem that you’re dealing with will help you choose a product that targets the issue.
Brush the teeth
Toothbrushing is the single most effective way of controlling plaque. Use a toothpaste designed for animals (human toothpaste is not designed to be swallowed).
Dog and cat toothbrushes and toothpastes are available at pet stores and vet clinics. However, the toothbrushes at the vet or pet store can be quite hard – you need to find a brush with soft bristles, such as a soft toddler brush. For a bigger dog, you can use a toothbrush for people with sensitive teeth.
When brushing teeth, start slowly; get them used to fingers first and introduce the brush slowly. Stop if they resist, as it is not a punishment.
Reward your pet with a yummy treat, favourite game and/or lots of praise. Don’t expect your pet to pick it up on the first go; like any training, toothbrushing takes time.
Get your pet’s mouth vet-checked first as there may be an infection, inflammation or pain, which will make brushing a bad experience.
Chewing is another way to prevent dental disease. Bones are a popular, ‘natural’ choice, but need to be used with caution as they can be potentially dangerous for your pet. In fact, vet experts remain divided on the effectiveness of chewing bones to control plaque.
Pets can break their teeth on bones, which can lead to infection of the jawbone and tooth root abscess if left untreated. Bones can also cause gastrointestinal obstruction and trauma. Never feed cooked bones; they are brittle and prone to splintering!
Supervise your pet and remove any bones if concerned about their chewing behaviour!
Dental diets & toys
Special dental diets, chew treats and toys are a ‘softer’ chewing alternative to help
remove the plaque by physical abrasion, by killing bacteria or preventing plaque from hardening into tartar. Some products act in more than one way.
Avoid giving your pet hard toys to chew on as they increase risk of dental fracture. Tennis balls are very abrasive and can cause tooth wear.
Dr Hawke advises consulting with your vet about a dental diet most suitable for your pet.
This is my boy Cruz
There are the actual products I used to clean Cruz’s teeth
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