Having healthy teeth and gums is essential for a happy pet. However, sadly over 80% of our pets suffer from dental disease, with the majority of these cases being so easily preventible. That's why we've joined forces with Vet Michael Lazaris to share 10 tips on how to keep your pet's teeth clean this Dental Month.🐰
Dental disease is a condition where bacteria solidifies on the teeth. Initially, this bacteria forms plaque, but if left unremoved will turn into tartar. Tartar is a much tougher substance, so as it builds up can cause everything from bad breath to tooth loss. In severe cases, when dental disease is left untreated, pets can even suffer from kidney, heart and liver issues.
Not only will your pet be in pain, but Michael also highlights that the "dental procedures to combat dental disease require a general anesthetic, so can be expensive, especially if multiple complex extractions are required. This is why it's always best to put in the effort to keep your pet's teeth clean from when they are puppies and kittens so that dental procedures can hopefully be avoided in the future."
Vet Michael's tips on how to keep your pet's teeth clean:
1. Brush those teeth daily
Brushing your pet's teeth daily is the number one prevention method to avoid dental disease. If daily isn't feasible, then the minimum recommended by Michael is twice a week. If you're a little late to the game, mineralised plaque (calculus) could have already built up on your pet's teeth. You won't be able to remove this from brushing alone, so arrange an appointment with your vet to remove it with an ultrasonic scaler. Once this is complete "you'll have a lovely set of teeth to look after properly."
2. Start brushing young
The easiest way to get your pet used to their teeth being brushed is to start them young. If you've been lucky enough to rescue a pooch in its golden years, you'll need a little more patience but don't give up! As a kitten or senior pooch, start things off slowly by simply getting them used to their mouth being opened. Next, you can try rubbing your (clean) finger over their teeth and gums. When this doesn't cause them to bat an eyelid, you're ready to try with the toothbrush and paste.
3. Use a pet-specific toothbrush
Funnily enough, our mouths are quite different from our pets. Not only are their jaws and mouths smaller, but they're also more tightly packed, with cats having 30 teeth and dogs 42. Therefore you'll need to equip yourself with a pet-specific toothbrush, with the right head shape and longer handle. If you're able to, Michael also recommends investing in an ultrasound toothbrush for best results.
4. Use an enzymatic toothpaste
Enzymatic toothpaste contains an enzyme, glucose oxidase, which targets plaque and tartar by breaking down oral bacteria. Not only does this help with smelly breath, but it means the toothpaste carries on working even after you've finished brushing! If you struggle to find an enzymatic toothpaste, simply use a pet-specific version. Never use a human one!
5. Reward with a healthy dental treat post-brush
In order to make tooth-brushing a positive experience, reward your cat or dog with a healthy treat post-brushing. Even better, use a treat with dental health benefits! Not all cat and dog dental treats were created equally though, so look for one with clinically proven ingredients, like Scrumbles Gnashers Dog or Cat Dental Treats.
6. Avoid food and treats with added sugars
When looking for the right dental treat, another thing to look out for is that it doesn't contain any added sugars, as sadly many do. You'll also want to watch out for this with their dry or wet food. The only way to check for certain is by looking at the ingredients list on the back of the pack.
7. Don't feed human foods
Feeding titbits of human foods is not only one of the key causes of pet obesity, but dental disease too, as they're often packed with much more sugar. Instead, stick to treats and foods tailor-made to be easy on your fur baby's tummy.
8. Entertain with chew toys
We all know that too much of a good thing normally makes it bad, which is certainly the same for pet treats. To avoid over-treating look for a chew toy that will not only provide some entertainment but also help rub off plaque.
9. Avoid hard chews and toys
"Hard chews and toys can cause nasty teeth fractures". Michael recommends using the thumbnail rule: "if you can't leave an indentation in the chew using your thumbnail, then the chew is too hard. Dental antlers and bones are a prime example."
10. Regular veterinary dental checks
"Recognising dental disease in pets requires a trained eye, and pets will often hide signs of dental pain until the problem is severe", particularly cats, so get your pet's teeth checked at least once a year by your vet.
Whilst dental disease can have consequences, using these easy tips it should be easy breezy to prevent dental disease and keep your pet's teeth tickety boo. Don't hesitate in getting in touch if you have any questions.