It may seem an indulgence or even an unnecessary convenience for some people, but the importance of good dental hygiene for pets is essential to keeping your pet healthy, happy and pain-free.
Research has revealed that by the age of 2 or 3 years old, most dogs already have periodontal disease. The problem with dental disease is that it has far-reaching long-term effects which severely restrict your pet’s quality of life. Like humans neglect of oral hygiene leads to all manner of oral infections which can impact overall wellbeing.
You can identify dental disease by a number of symptoms, including bad breath, a swollen mouth, swollen gums, loose teeth, red and inflamed gums, plaque and tartar on the teeth. Periodontal disease causes significant pain and can lead to tooth loss as well as serious health issues like kidney or heart disease.
Brushing is best practice
Regular brushing at home is the gold standard of keeping your pet’s oral hygiene at optimum levels. Remember to get toothpaste that’s specifically made for pets. Human toothpaste isn’t suitable as the amount of additives and preservatives and other components is designed to cater for a body much heavier than your average cat and dog (barring giant breeds), so if your pet swallows human toothpaste it can lead to serious harm. Specialized toothbrushes for companion animals are also necessary, although you can get away with a soft-bristled brush for babies in a pinch. Your vet is always a great source of knowledge and will show you how to properly care for your pet’s oral hygiene.
Some coaching & treats
With a little bit of patience and dedicated training most dogs and cats can learn to accept and even enjoy having their pearly whites brushed. A treat as a reward is always the best incentive and there are a number of chewies on the market that are designed for the most stubborn and headstrong companion animals who will not budge when it comes to having you poke your fingers into their mouths.
Dentifrices (according to Wikipedia, dentifrices are agents used with a toothbrush to clean and polish natural teeth. They come in paste, powder, gel or liquid form) that keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy are a good way to begin the training. It’s also a lot easier to begin with a kitten or puppy. In addition to dentifrices and brushing, it’s a good idea to regularly take your pet to the vet for a dental cleaning.
There are also toys designed in such a way as to clean the teeth while your pets chew and bite on them. It’s important to read the instructions because you have to get the chewie or toy that’s specific for your pet; a chewie or toy made for a small dog poses a choking hazard for a large breed dog.
Specially formulated diets with kibble shaped to keep pets’ teeth clean and gums healthy are also available on the market. These products contain ingredients that fight plaque and tooth decay and help towards the reduction of the accumulation of plaque. Wet food isn’t inherently bad for oral hygiene, but a good combination of more dry food than wet food is a better approach towards going the extra mile to prevent tooth and gum decay. In addition to specially formulated foods there is also a wide variety of dental rinses available.
It’s important to use as many of the products in combination with brushing because the more you are able to do to keep your pets’ mouths clean and bacteria-free, the better the chances are of fighting off mouth and gum disease as well as tooth decay.
Regular dental check-ups are a must
A proper dental examination with a good scaling is as important as brushing and a good diet with chewies and toys. Your vet can apply a sealant, which is a wax-like product, to your pet’s teeth to keep plaque, gingivitis, tartar and other nasty mouth diseases at bay.
The probability is that your vet will only be able to do a limited oral exam while your pet is awake, in order for a good and proper dental examination your pet will have to be anesthetized. The most important thing about a comprehensive oral examination and scaling is that your vet cleans below the gum line.
An important statistic to bear in mind is that between 70 and 85 per cent of pets over the age of two have some form of dental disease.
Your vet will follow up the examination, cleaning and polish with a treatment plan that will help with diseases found during the examination. Your vet will probably also take x-rays of your pet’s mouth to be as comprehensive as possible.
In addition, your vet will show you the correct way to brush your pet’s teeth, recommend the best diet and suggest toys and chewies that will help keep your pet’s oral hygiene at the best levels possible.
It’s important to note that dental disease is often overlooked and is a real threat to the health and comfort of your pet. So make sure that you regularly schedule a comprehensive oral examination, and then move forward with the suggestions from your vet.