You look after your own teeth... what about your best friend?
Did you know over 85% of cats and dogs older than four years of age suffer from some sort of dental disease? Plaque can build up in the mouth and lead to tooth erosion, decay and loosening, as well as inflammation and pain in the gums and oral cavity. Plaque and tartar in the mouth also act as a reservoir of bacteria, which then travel through the bloodstream to other organs such as the heart, kidney, and brain. These bacteria are a leading cause of heart valve disease and kidney malfunction.
What to look for
There are many signs to look out for that may indicate dental problems. If your pet has a smelly breath or discoloured teeth, or experiences pain on eating (chewing on one side only, pawing at the mouth or going off hard food and preferring to eat soft food), he or she needs to be checked by your local veterinary team.
What you can do
Prevention is an important part of your pet's dental health regime. Offering hard things to chew will keep your pet occupied and satisfy its natural instinct to chew, as well as help to keep its teeth clean. Raw bones are a good way to tempt most pets. Cats will often enjoy chicken necks or wings, while dogs (depending on the size) can be offered chicken wings or meaty marrowbones from the butcher. Don't feed cooked bones! These can splinter and cause internal damage.
Pigs ears, dried meat strips, and special dental chews can all be given too.
Tooth brushing is another way to clean your pet’s teeth. Tasty flavoured toothpastes are available for pets, and will often contain plaque-fighting enzymes to help break down the build-up. Introduce toothbrushing slowly and gently, and most pets will come to accept the practice as a part of their normal routine.
Dental check-ups with your vet are essential to assess the health of your pet’s teeth, design the best plan for prevention of decay, and treat any arising problems. If your pet has a significant build-up of tartar, gum inflammation, or recession, your vet may recommend a dental scale and polish be performed. This is carried out under a full general anaesthetic, and the teeth are scaled and polished (just as a dentist will do with us). Damaged teeth may be repaired or, if necessary, removed. Your veterinary team will then work with you to devise a home care plan to keep your best friend's teeth sparkling and white.