How you can Prevent Dental Disease in Your Pet

How you can Prevent Dental Disease in Your Pet

Just like humans, cats and dogs need proper dental care. Approximately 70% of cats and 80% of dogs over the age of 3 years have developed some form of dental disease. It is important to provide proper oral care to prevent or slow down the progression of dental disease. There are many options and tools that pet owners can utilize. By providing good oral hygiene for your pet, you can decrease the chances of tooth loss and decay.  Here are the North End Animal Hospital we see all different stages of dental disease and we can help. 

Dental disease is more evident in older pets, but can appear as early as the age of 3 years. It is most common in flat-faced cats as well as small breed dogs. In these pets, it’s not uncommon to have tooth overcrowding and misaligned teeth that make it more difficult for owners to clean. Therefore, they are more prone to dental disease. This doesn’t mean it’s not common in other cats and dogs, but tends to happen at an earlier age for those breeds mentioned above.

What is dental disease? It forms when plaque left on the teeth turn into hardened tartar. Tartar will eventually spread below the gum line if it is not removed. This causes inflammation and can cause damage to the structures supporting the teeth, and can cause an infection as well as tooth decay. This can be very painful. Just like in humans, the bacteria could potentially go into the blood stream and affect organ such as the heart, kidneys and liver. 

There are many tools out there to help keep up on your pet’s oral hygiene. As there are many different products, you should be looking for products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) as there is a scientific background to those products proving they work. Some products include chew treats, dental kibble, wipes, oral rinses, as well as enzymatic toothpaste for brushing teeth. Human toothpaste can be toxic for pets, so it’s important to use a vet certified toothpaste. For best results, brushing should happen once a day for about a minute. Regular teeth cleaning under anesthesia with your Veterinarian is also recommended to help prevent or slow down the progression of dental disease.

Pets are experts at hiding pain, so how can you tell if they are experiencing some form of dental disease? Common signs are drooling, yellow or brown crust on teeth, bleeding or swollen gums, as well as a change in chewing habits. Often times owners will notice that their pet doesn’t want to eat hard food anymore and would prefer wet. They also may not be chewing toys that they use to enjoy chewing. Pawing at their muzzle/mouth, as well as favouring one side, can also be a sign. However, the most common and easiest indicator of oral disease is bad breath.

Here are some tips on brushing your pet’s teeth:

* It is recommended that owners start brushing their pet’s teeth after their pet is over the age of 6 months, which is typically when all of the adult teeth are in.

* The first step is to get your cat or dog used to the toothpaste and toothbrush. You can slowly introduce this to them by allowing them to taste the toothpaste. Allow them to have a small amount each day for a few days or a week. There are many different flavours, so don’t worry if they aren’t fond of a certain kind. Play with their mouth, handling the muzzle, as well as rubbing your finger alongside their gums. Make it a game and a positive experience.  This may take several weeks for them to get used to.

* Once they are used to the toothpaste and the inside of their mouth being touched, you can introduce a toothbrush.

* You’ll want to brush at a 45• degree angle to the tooth and brush back and forth or from gum to tip.

* Brushing the tooth surface that facies the tongue is less critical.

* Take your time and work on increasing the amount of brushing time, up to about 1 minute. Make sure to give lots of love and praise to gain their confidence.

* It also helps to have these practice sessions at relatively the same time each day to get your cat or dog into a routine.

* If your pet is food motivated, it may help to brush right before feeding them a meal. This will act as a reward for co-operating.

* Eventually brushing will become easier.

Together you and your Veterinarian can come up with the best options to help support your pet’s oral hygiene.