why is it important for cats and dogs to have healthy teeth?
If you’ve ever been unlucky enough to have tooth ache, gum disease or even a dreaded root canal, you’ll know just how miserable it is to suffer from these kinds of inflictions. As many as 80% cats and dogs face these same issues, suffering silently with oral health issues and often unbeknownst to us, their pawrents.
Just as in humans, plaque occurs naturally for cats and dogs collecting on the surface of teeth and under the gum line. Left undisturbed it can lead to serious issues. Plaque itself is difficult to see, but after a while it calcifies and develops into tartar a hard, brown/yellow stain or deposit on the tooth.
Plaque and tartar can lead to a whole range of issues like gingivitis, pyorrhoea, cavities and periodontitis. If these issues are left to develop not only are they incredibly painful but can evolve into something serious and even life threatening. Pre-emptive action is the best way to avoid these issues and introducing a simple daily routine will lead to longer happier lives for you both.
4 simple ways to keep your pet’s teeth healthy
- It all starts with what goes in – choose a high-quality food with lots of meat, no nasties and the right ingredients to develop strong teeth. Both Smudge and Boo’s diet consist of mainly dry food (Scrumbles of course) and we advocate a quality dry as studies have shown that dry foods produce less tartar.
- Regularly brushing their teeth – if you’ve never tried this before, read on for our guide on how to brush your cat or dog’s teeth. We’ll admit it’s not always an easy task but stay strong, be vigilant and you’ll start reaping the benefits
- Check those treats – a complete diet and lots of love is all your cat or dog needs but in moderation treats are okay. It’s important to check the ingredients to avoid nasties – believe it or not some treats including those marketed as dental chews contain sugar.
- Give the dog (or cat) a bone – Raw bones make the perfect treat and can help promote healthy teeth. As they chew bones help scrape teeth clean knocking off tartar. Be careful not to give pork, chicken or fish bones nor cooked bones to avoid splintering.
how can I check my cat or dogs oral health?
The simple answer is to look inside their mouth. The first sign of oral health problems is bad breath and it can be deadly! As dental problems worsen you may find that your cat or dog is reluctant to eat and may show signs of losing weight. We recommend you regularly check inside for tell-tale signs of tartar, plaque and swollen gums as well as an annual dental examination at the vets to keep your pets teeth healthy. Don’t hesitate to ask your vet to thoroughly check their teeth, gums and breath. If on inspection you notice tartar build up or other signs of oral health problems, it’s best to consult with your vet. You might require a professional clean or even surgery.
how to brush your cat or dog’s teeth
- A suitable brush – most pet shops stock a whole array of options here from finger brushes to those more like your own. Most will do the trick just fine, but think about the size of your cat or dog’s mouth and if you’re starting new, what they’re likely to let you put in their mouth
- Dog/Cat friendly toothpaste – it’s important not to use human toothpaste, as they usually contain fluoride, which is toxic to cats and dogs.
- Patience & determination – but you already made it this far, you’ll be fine!
Starting from a young age like we did with Boo, makes it much easier as a kitty or puppy will be much more amenable to having you play around in their mouth.
If you’re dealing with an adult, like our Smudge was, they will likely not be overly pleased at the idea of you forcing a brush into their mouth even with the bribe of meaty flavoured toothpaste.
You can start by simply using your finger to rub over their teeth and gums the first few times – perhaps after a good walk or play so they’re more inclined to lie there without too much fuss. Go at their pace. If they get agitated after a minute, let them off the hook. You want it to be a pleasant experience and the goal is to be able to do it regularly without upset. Lots of praise and play after the event will help the next time!
Once they are used to you feeling around their teeth with your finger, advance to the toothbrush, it may take a few tries and some coercion, but stay strong, stick with it.
Start at the back brushing softly in circular motions over the teeth and gum line and work to the front. 30 seconds a side for the top and the same on the bottom is a good guide for a regular clean.
For smaller mouths and teeth it can be really tricky and can take a few goes to get the knack, but you’ll feel it and hear it when you are brushing properly.
how often should I brush my cat or dog’s teeth?
The straight answer is every day. Or as often as you can. It is a big commitment but ultimately, it’s worth it and is an important part of helping them lead a long, healthy and happy life.
are dental chews as effective as brushing?
Tough chew toys are a great supplement to oral health, but they are not an alternative to brushing. When it comes to dental chews, we hesitate to advocate these since some of them are filled with some pretty dubious ingredients including sugar, so we avoid them all together. A raw bone or antler, in a suitable size, is a more natural alternative and usually gets a tail wag approval. Just be sure to keep your eye on them in case of choking.