Caring for pet’s teeth at home

Caring for pets teeth at home.

Have you ever gone a few days without brushing your teeth? It’s not nice! Now imagine not brushing them for 6 months! Our pets are the same, their teeth need TLC on a regular basis just like us. First let’s bust one of those myths out there, “Dog Breath” is not normal! It’s usually a sign that something’s wrong and needs a visit to the Vet.

So what causes bad breath and dental problems?

Over 80% of cats and dogs have some degree of dental disease. Dental disease causes bad breath (halitosis), inflammed gums, infection of the bone surrounding the teeth and as the disease progresses, pain and tooth loss. It can also be a source of infection which can affect your pet’s organs making your pet seriously ill.

Dental disease is preventable in the majority of cases and is relatively easy to achieve at home. There are many different ways to keep your pet’s teeth ‘pearly white’  and are best started when your pet is a puppy or kitten.

If your pet already has existing dental disease, a “Dental” including descale and polish under general anaesthesia is almost always necessary to return their teeth to top condition. Then we would discuss a tailored prevention program with you to help maintain or slow down dental disease developing again in the future.

Brushing your pet’s teeth

Brushing your pet’s teeth on a daily basis is the ‘gold standard’ and best way to remove plaque. Other methods to prevent the build up of plaque and tartar include dental diets, playing with special dental chew toys, rinses or water additives. Please avoid the “popular” brands as they tend to make the problem worse in the long run.

Brushing your pet’s teeth daily helps control plaque build up, thereby minimising dental disease.

  1. Select a toothbrush
    • Choose a soft toothbrush such as a children’s toothbrush
    • Specialised dog and cat toothbrushes are available from vet clinics or pet shops.
  2. Select a toothpaste
    • Cats and dogs need a special toothpaste.
    • Human toothpaste is not designed to be swallowed and has ingredients which can make your pet sick.
    • Pet toothpaste is flavoured with chicken or beef which will make your pet more likely to accept it. It is safe for your pet to swallow.
  3. Introducing your pet to teeth brushing
    • Cats and dogs may feel more comfortable if they can sit on their owners lap while having their teeth brushed.
    • Begin slowly, initial sessions should be brief, a minute or two and reward with a tasty treat afterwards.
    • Get your pet used to the toothbrush by dipping it in tuna juice, chicken or beef stock.
    • Next try offering the toothbrush with the toothpaste, without brushing. Allow your pet to taste the toothpaste.
    • When your pet is comfortable with the brush try brushing one or two strokes on a few teeth. Slowly increase the brushing over a few days until your pet becomes more comfortable.
    • Start at the front of the mouth, pets are more accepting of this.

5 Steps to effective teeth brushing

1. Add toothpaste– Apply a small amount of pet toothpaste to the brush (do not use human toothpaste).

2. Correct angle– Hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to the gum line

3. Circular motion– Apply the toothbrush and use a circular motion with gentle pressure on the teeth and gum line.

4. At least 30-60 seconds– Brush for at least 30-60 seconds on each side of the mouth, remembering the back teeth. It is very difficult to clean the inside surfaces of your pet’s mouth.

5. Reward– Reward your pet for their good behaviour. Try using a special treat that your pet loves and is only used as a reward after brushing.

Alternatives to brushing

While brushing is refered to the ‘gold standard’ in home dental care, it is sometimes not possible due to the personality of your pet, or the amount of spare time you have every day.

Dental diets

Many premium dental dry pet foods and special treats are available for both cats and dogs. These dental foods work using a combination of mechanical and gentle abrasion on the teeth which together help to slow the dental disease process by helping to prevent plaque buildup. If your pet hasn’t started these specially designed foods at an early age, it is best to start them after they have had their teeth professionally scaled and polished.

Reducing the speed of eating

Dogs’ and cats’ teeth need contact time with dry food when chewing to allow the dry food to assist in the removal of plaque. Pets who eat their food very fast do not have adequate contact time and this causes plaque to accumulate. You can slow the speed at which your pet eats by using anti-gulp bowls or dental toys with food placed inside.

Rinses and gels

An array of rinses and gels are available.

Dental toys

Toys are a useful addition to a dental hygiene programme, however they should not be relied on solely.

Treats and chews

Products such as pigs’ ears or rawhide bones encourage your pet to chew. They should not be relied on solely for dental prevention and work best in combination with daily brushing. It is recommended to offer dental treats and chews under supervision.