Taking care of your pet’s teeth is vitally important for their overall health. Just as we brush our teeth each day and get regular dental check-ups, our pets also need regular preventative care, dental check-ups and dental treatment for a range of dental diseases or trauma. We recommend keeping up-to-date with your pet’s dental health and, as with any aspect of their wellbeing, we see prevention as a much better outcome than a cure.
Dog Dental Care
As with humans, puppies have milk teeth that they lose around 4 to 6 months of age. You may notice this with increased chewing and find the odd milk (deciduous) tooth that the tooth fairy hasn’t claimed. Once your puppy reaches the age of six to seven months, all their adult teeth will have erupted and we need to look after these permanent teeth for the rest of their life. It is important to have a check-up at this age with your vet to see if any milk teeth have been retained and if so, whether we need to take remedial action, which can often be done at the same time your pet is neutered.
Your dog’s adult teeth need to be cared for in much the same ways as we do with ours to help prevent dental and gum diseases that may require treatment later in life.
Ways To Care For Your Dog’s Teeth:
Brushing is the best way to look after your dog’s dental hygiene. You should purchase a specialist pet toothpaste, suitable for dogs as human toothpaste can be toxic to pets. You can apply it to the teeth with your finger or finger toothbrush and slowly introduce a toothbrush when your dog is comfortable. Brushing every day is important to prevent plaque build-up and our vets and nurses will be happy to advise you further.
Dental Chews, Dental Toys and Diets
Dental chews, toys and diets are another great way to reduce plaque formation. You are able to purchase various flavours and sizes to suit your dog. Dental chews can be high in calories so you must account for this in their daily diet, you may need to reduce the amount of food in each meal. There are some regular diets which help to reduce the risk of dental disease by preventing the formation of plaque. Dental toys are also a great way of stimulating your dog’s mind, while looking after their dental health. Kong toys or rope tug toys can be used safelyy for chewing. It is not recommended to use very hard chews such as bones or antlers as they can fracture the dog’s teeth. A general rule is ‘not to give your dog anything to chew that you cannot dent with a thumbnail or would not bend or break in the mouth when in contact with teeth.’
Cat Dental Care
Maintaining good dental hygiene in cats can be a little more difficult than in dogs or other pets. By nature, cats are very good at hiding their pain or discomfort and you may not notice dental problems arising.
Similarly to dogs and humans, cats are born with milk teeth which they will lose in their first six months of life. They’re replaced by adult teeth which will remain with them for life and so need to be well looked after.
As cats are good at hiding their dental discomfort, it is good for owners to know the most common signs something may be wrong with their cat’s teeth. The most common signs are:
- Discomfort eating (this can be hard to spot)
- Bad breath
- Reduced grooming
- Pawing at their mouth
- Bleeding gums
Ways to Care For Your Cat’s Teeth:
As with dogs, brushing is the best way to care for your cat’s teeth. Brushing can be introduced at any age, but it would be easiest to start when they are a kitten to get them accustomed to the routine. It is important to brush your cats’ teeth at least once a day. Again, you must use a specialty cat toothpaste as human toothpaste can be toxic. If your cat will not tolerate brushing, you could try using dental gel on a finger or finger toothbrush and applying it to their teeth. They may eventually tolerate a toothbrush, or you could apply the gel to a surface or their paws for them to lick.
Dental Diets and Toys
Your cat may not tolerate toothpaste and toothbrushing, this is absolutely fine. You may wish to try a dental diet which will help to reduce the formation of plaque on the teeth. There are also supplements which can be added to the food to help prevent buildup of plaque. Lastly, there are cat toys available which encourage chewing and self-cleaning to help maintain good dental hygiene.
Willett House recommends dental check-ups on a regular basis for all animals to ensure they remain in the best possible condition to enjoy their daily lives. A dental check-up is included as standard in any health check examination. Most pets will have their annual examination from a veterinary surgeon with their booster vaccinations. Our Pet Club offers a six-month health check with one of the veterinary surgeons and this can be used as an opportunity to assess the teeth and gums to advise you on the appropriate care. Pets can be very stoic when it comes to dental pain so regular checkups provide the best opportunity for quickly identifying dental problems.
Your dog or cat may need dental treatment under a general anaesthetic to treat gum disease, remove damaged teeth or to address a range of other dental issues. Inflammation or disease in the gums has been linked to kidney and heart problems and damaged teeth or tooth roots will cause pain and have the potential for serious infection for your pets. If our team considers a damaged tooth to be repairable, such as a damaged canine tooth, then referral to a dental specialist can be considered for root canal treatment.