Dental care for dogs and cats is incredibly important. Keep reading to find out why dental hygiene is important and how you can keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy at home.
Just like humans, animals can suffer from the effects of poor dental hygiene. A variety of dental issues can occur in your pets that – if left untreated – can turn into much more serious and even life-threatening conditions.
Oral hygiene is a vital part of your pet’s overall health. There have been studies showing that, when done regularly and correctly, dental health maintenance can even extend your pet’s life!
We’ve touched base with Dr Brad Ward, RSPCA South Australia’s Chief Vet, to bring you this helpful guide on everything you need to know about looking after your dog or cat’s teeth and gums.
It is common for dogs and cats to get dental plaque and tartar/ build up, as well as dental and periodontal disease (also known as gum disease).
Dental plaque is a soft and sticky accumulation of bacteria, saliva and fluid that can coat the teeth and collect in the gums’ recesses. If left untreated, dental plaque can damage the tooth, lead to the formation of tartar, and cause periodontal disease.
Tartar forms when minerals from saliva combine with dental plaque. If left long enough, tartar hardens into a layer that only professional cleaning can remove.
In cats, gingivitis is a common occurrence. This is when a buildup of plaque and tartar causes the gums to become inflamed and swollen.
If not addressed, gingivitis can cause periodontal disease, a condition that can weaken jaw bones, as well as damage the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gingiva (another name for gums), periodontal ligament and cementum.
Cats can also suffer feline chronic gingivostomatitis, which is the severe and chronic inflammation and ulceration of the gums and tissues in the mouth. The cause of this painful disease is unknown, and it can occur in any cat, regardless of breed or age.
Just like humans, your pet’s teeth need regular brushing – daily is ideal.
It can be hard to brush your pet’s teeth, but with persistence and regularity, it will become a lot easier. It is best to start when your pet is still young so it becomes just another part of their daily routine.
To clean their teeth, squeeze some pet toothpaste onto a microfibre cloth (cleaned and replaced as necessary, and used only for this purpose) and gently rub it over every tooth.
You can also purchase specialised tools for cleaning your pet’s teeth from RSPCA PetVille. Click here to see what’s available or visit our store at Hillcrest.
Make sure your pet gets check-ups at the vet every year.
There are also dental treats for pets that have proven benefits for their dental health. While they are nowhere near as effective as a proper clean, these treats can still contribute to overall oral health by reducing the buildup of plaque and tartar.
Dental treats work by disturbing the plaque when the dog bites into them. Talk to your vet about whether they are a good option for your pet, and see what’s available at PetVille, as well.
For more advanced cases, your vet may also advise that you use a Chlorhexidine mouthwash or gel, which is a disinfectant and antiseptic. Only use this if your vet specifically recommends it.
You can also help your dog maintain healthy teeth by providing them with a raw meaty bone. While bones can have great benefits for overall dental health, it has now been proven that bones do not cure periodontal disease.
It is also crucial to give your dog the correct type of bone for it to munch on, as there are some kinds that can cause more damage to the teeth. Click here to find out more.
If your pet requires professional treatment for any oral health related issues, all pet dentistry should be performed while your pet is fully anaesthetised.
It is not possible for a vet to thoroughly clean or forensically examine an animal’s teeth and gums without the animal being under general aesthetic.
Dentistry can be incredibly scary for your pet, as well as causing them stress and potentially severe pain if they are conscious for the treatment.
Depending on the treatment required, there may be probing under the gum lines, scraping decay or tartar off the teeth, examining cavities and perhaps even tooth removal. This would all cause your pet pain and distress if they were not under general anaesthesia.
Modern anaesthesia used by vets is very safe for pets. Even older animals with other health issues, like heart or liver problems, can normally be safely put under anaesthesia, although your vet will possibly conduct extra tests and take greater precautions.
As you can see, it is incredibly important not to neglect your pet’s dental hygiene. If you have any questions regarding dental care for your pet, talk with your vet or check out the RSPCA knowledge base.