Healthy Smiles in Pet Dental Health Month
Did you know that February is Pet Dental Health Month? If you haven’t got a dental health routine in place for your pet, this week we’ve got some tips to help your dog or cat maintain their smile.
Just like people, the condition of your pet’s mouth can have a significant effect on their overall health and wellbeing - but because their teeth and gums are generally out of sight, we sometimes don’t pay them as much attention as we should. As with our own teeth, prevention is much better than cure and it is important to make sure you are doing everything you can to maintain your pet’s teeth, keeping them healthy and pain-free.
Pets can suffer from a broad range of oral problems, in just the same way that humans can. Over 80% of dogs suffer from some kind of gum disease during their lifetime and around 70% of cats are affected by dental disease by the time they are 3. Luckily there are more products on the market nowadays to help keep your pets in teeth healthy - with dental treats for dogs and cats - but many vets agree that most pet owners should also be brushing their pets teeth and taking them for regular check ups to prevent problems before they can occur.
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Your pet's mouth
The wear and tear on pets mouths is huge – they don’t just use their teeth for eating, they use them for fetching, carrying, playing, grooming, and chewing on toys (or furniture – bad dog!)
Dogs have 42 permanent teeth: 20 on the top and 22 on the bottom. These adult teeth replace their baby teeth at about 6-8 months old. A healthy dog should have creamy-white coloured teeth with no built up deposits and their gums should be pink. Depending on the breed, some dogs might have black pigmentation on their gums and tongue, which is normal but if their tongue or gums change from their usual colour then you should seek veterinary advice.
Cats have 30 permanent teeth: 16 on the top and 14 on the bottom. In a healthy cat’s mouth, the teeth should be creamy-white with no built up deposits and the gums should be pink. Cats often struggle with dental disease without showing any outward signs of pain so it is important to make sure you have a good dental routine and know what is going on in their mouth.
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Effective, regular brushing
Owners who regularly clean their pet’s teeth report that they are healthier for longer - and being proactive with a good routine is a great way of keeping them that way.
Brushing with a soft toothbrush and a toothpaste specifically made for pets, helps promote fresh breath as well as keeping diseases in check. Don’t use human toothpaste on animals – they would not appreciate the strong peppermint flavour and the fluoride contained in most human toothpaste can also be harmful to pets when ingested. There are lots of specially flavoured toothpastes on the market for dogs and cats, which can make brushing a fun activity that they will enjoy. If you’re not sure which product is best for you, ask your vet to recommend something suitable.
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Again, just like people, pets need a healthy balanced diet – not just for their dental health but for their general wellbeing too. Whilst it is OK to give the occasional treat you should avoid giving them sugary snacks and there are quite a few things that dogs should not eat at all, including raisins and chocolate, so try to stick to dog food and dog treats whenever possible, however pleadingly they look at you.
In my experience there are two types of cat, ones who only eat cat food and ones who want to eat everything you are eating. They will jump onto the table at dinnertime and lick your ice cream when you’re not looking. If your cat is the latter of these two types, try to ensure that they aren’t having too many treats and don’t overfeed them as this can cause all kinds of health issues, not just in their mouth.
There are lots of extremely palatable dental chews and treats on the market for cats and dogs which – if given regularly – can help prevent plaque from building up and keep your pet’s breath fresh in between meals. Always read the label before you purchase to make sure they are suitable for your pet (for example you can get a range different sized dog chews for different-sized dogs) and feed them the recommended amount each day, even if they ask for more.
Be careful if you are giving your dog hard toys or bones to chew as these can increase the risk of broken or chipped teeth.
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Check ups at the vet
Just like the dentist, you shouldn’t wait until there is an issue before you take your pet to the vet. Prevention is the best cure and having your pet’s teeth cleaned professionally at the vet once a year is the best way to make sure you are doing everything you can to preserve their oral health. All pets are different so it is best to ask your vet if you need to visit more regularly in order to prevent issues including gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Your vet is also the best person to ask for guidance on how to maintain your pet’s oral health so if you are just beginning to incorporate an oral health routine for your animals they should be your first port of call.
Do you have any extra tips for keeping your pet's mouth healthy? Let us know in the comments section below!
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