Protect your pet’s pearly whites

Brushing your pet’s teeth is easier than you think. Starting them early to get them used to it is a great idea.
Brushing your pet’s teeth is easier than you think. Starting them early to get them used to it is a great idea.

Teeth brushing is part of everybody’s daily routine. Cats have almost as many teeth as humans, and dogs have about 30 per cent more teeth, so it’s definitely time to make teeth brushing part of your pet’s routine too.

Preventing halitosis – or bad breath – is one great reason to start brushing your pet’s teeth regularly.

While ‘dogs breath’ is something that’s been commonly accepted as being normal, your dog’s breath should, in fact, smell neutral, and bad breath could indicate that something is wrong. If your dog or cat does suffer from bad breath, they should be seen by a vet for a thorough physical examination.

Preventing the onset of dental disease is another great reason to start scrubbing those pearly whites. Dental disease is a blanket term used to describe poor oral health caused by diseases such as gingivitis, periodontal disease, tooth fractures and tooth root abscesses and infections.

About 80 per cent of dogs show signs of dental disease by the time they are three years old. Smaller dogs, older dogs and brachycephalic breed dogs (such as pugs and French bulldogs) are at higher risk of dental disease.

A healthy dog or cat will have white teeth, and their gum line will be shiny and pink. Signs of dental disease include brown and yellow stained teeth and red, swollen gums, indicating bacterial and food build-up. If left untreated, bacteria will spread to the roots of the teeth and could lead to painful, wobbly teeth and tooth loss.

At worst, bacteria will enter the blood stream, increasing the risk of heart disease. Fortunately this can all be prevented through effective and regular brushing.

Brushing your pet’s teeth is easier than you think. Starting them early to get them used to it is a great idea. Use a special pet toothbrush or a soft-bristled human toothbrush, with or without pet toothpaste, to brush in a circular motion over each tooth, including the ones right at the back. Doing this every day is the best way of preventing dental disease.

If you struggle brushing your dog or cat’s teeth, or you have an older pet who isn’t tolerant of brushing, your vet can provide advice about products such as gels and water additives that may help to make the process a little easier.

Another easy option to encourage good dental health for your dog is to incorporate raw bones or high quality dental chews into their diet. Before feeding your beloved pooch bones however, check with your vet about whether bones are suitable. Make sure you never feed a cooked bone to your dog, as these might splinter and cause serious internal injuries. There are also toys available for both dogs and cats that clean the teeth during play.

If you suspect your dog or cat is suffering from dental disease – with symptoms include bad breath, excessive lip licking and salivating, pain or difficulty when eating dry food, being off their food, bleeding gums or loose teeth – make an appointment with your vet. Your vet can perform a thorough ‘scale and clean’, and will be able to clean the teeth, even under the gums, while your pet is under a general anesthetic. Modern anesthetic drugs are very safe and can even be used on elderly animals.

Performing a scale and clean should never be attempted by anyone other than a vet, or while the animal is fully conscious, as this will be extremely stressful to the animal, and is likely to also be painful.

So when you’re next brushing your teeth while getting ready in the morning, or before hopping into bed at night, spare a thought for the importance of your pet’s teeth too, and resolve to make good oral hygiene part of your regular pet-care routine too!

  • This article was provided by the RSPCA, an independent, non-government community-based charity providing animal care and protection services. The RSPCA relies on donations from the public in order to carry out its work. You can donate online or call 1300 RSPCA1.