The importance of oral health for your pet

Your pet’s oral health has a large impact on their overall health and wellbeing. Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease in dogs and cats – by the time your pet is three years old, he or she will likely have some early evidence of dental disease. Our pets can’t tell us when they are in pain, and the symptoms of dental pain are often subtle and overlooked by pet parents. Therefore, detection, maintenance and prevention are critical steps to take for your pet’s health. This article will give you some tips on how to keep your pet’s teeth squeaky clean.

Unlike us, our pets can’t brush their teeth, leaving us responsible for their oral health. Dental disease can not only cause oral pain, but also deeper problems such as loss of jawbone, teeth and can spread bacteria through the bloodstream to organs such as the liver, heart and kidneys. Dental disease is caused by a build-up of plaque – which is a blend of saliva, food, bacteria and calcium that sticks to the teeth.

Some of the signs of dental disease include:

  • Difficulty in eating, swallowing or dropping food
  • Pawing at or rubbing their mouth
  • Avoiding food
  • Excessive drooling
  • Bad breath

It is important not to wait until these signs are showing in your pet – make sure that they are getting a dental check every six months to ensure their oral health is maintained. As well as dental checks, dental home care can make a big difference to your pet’s health. The aim of dental home care is to minimise the build-up of plaque and to prevent the hardening phase of the plaque on your pet’s teeth.

Some dental home care tips:

Tooth brushing

Like us, tooth brushing is an extremely effective way of controlling plaque. It disturbs the layer of plaque forming on the teeth before it can harden into tartar. Dog and cat toothbrushes and toothpastes are readily available at your local vet. Many pets will accept tooth brushing if introduced slowly and with a reward – the variety of toothpastes in chicken, beef and tuna flavour can make brushing easier and even seem like a treat.

Chewing

Chewing helps to remove plaque by providing an abrasive action. This can be done through chew toys, dental diets and treats. Dental diets are great because they have been designed and proven to reduce plaque and tartar build-up. Bones should be used with great caution as pets can break their teeth on them and potentially can cause gastrointestinal obstruction and trauma. It’s a good idea to get professional advice from your local vet on which diet would be most suitable for your pet.

Taking these steps in home dental care will space out the need for professional care, and means that the chances of irreversible dental problems will be reduced for your pet. If your pet has a significant build-up of plaque and tartar, they may need a professional dental treatment by a veterinarian. The only way that the plaque and tartar can be removed is by using an electronic descaler – like the machine that human dentists use. This must be done under anaesthetic so that the teeth can be cleaned below the gum line and to make the overall experience better for your pet.

No one method or product can completely control plaque, it is best to combine several methods and speak to your veterinarian about creating a oral healthcare plan care plan for your pet. Our clinics offer FREE dental checks and can offer you advice on dental diets, chews, toothbrushes and tooth paste for your furry friend.

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