Many cat owners complain about their feline’s cat-o-strophically bad breath. Unfortunately, most cats don’t have their teeth cleaned so the most common cause of halitosis (bad breath) is caused by bad teeth. Regular dental care can definitely improve your cat’s general health and wellbeing.
Dogs can develop dental problems at any age and many over six years of age have some degree of dental disease. The problems can range from mild gingivitis where the gums look red, to severe periodontitis where teeth are covered in brown tartar and there may even be tooth root abscesses.
Although our pets do not demonstrate dental pain like we do, there’s no doubt that they do get toothache. Although it might not stop them from eating, they’ll feel very uncomfortable with that dull ache. It’s surprising how much brighter and livelier your pet may become after a dental.
Early dental problems can often be picked up by your vet when you take your pet in for an annual booster and health check. It’s much easier to treat an early case of gingivitis by scaling and polishing the teeth rather than waiting until your pet has severe dental disease, resulting in a much longer anaesthetic to remove teeth.
Dental diets are available, specially formulated to act like a toothbrush to help prevent tartar build up. Dental diets aren’t as effective as regular brushing, but can help keep teeth clean if used as part of their daily diet
If their teeth have severe gingivitis or a deeper infection it’s important that your pet has a dental as a matter of urgency. The infected gums provide a source of bacteria, which can get into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, these bacteria can deposit in major organs such as the kidney, liver and heart valves.
What can you do to help?
Daily removal of plaque is the key to healthy teeth.
Unless your pet’s teeth are brushed daily, plaque and eventually tartar will build up at the gum line. Infection then occurs, which loosens and destroys the attachment of the tooth.
Consider a dental diet.
In pets that won’t allow tooth brushing, the next best thing is a dental diet that’ll help control plaque build-up. Your vet can recommend a food that you can feed your pet to help keep their teeth clean.
Brushing their teeth can be an easy and fun procedure (in some pets).
It’s easier to start at the puppy or kitten stage as they will get used to it very easily. You need a very soft bristled brush (like a child’s or baby’s toothbrush) and pet toothpaste, which is usually meat flavoured. Do not use human toothpaste as it can be harmful if swallowed and usually pets don’t like that minty freshness much. Check out our guide to brushing your pet’s teeth below.
There are many dental chews and treats available and these do help, but be aware that on their own they are sometimes not enough to prevent dental disease.
How to brush your pet’s teeth
- Buy your tooth brushing kit (brush, finger glove and toothpaste) from your vet practice or find out which type they recommend. Never use human toothpaste.
- Start getting them used to it as soon as you can. If you have a puppy or kitten, that’s great; if you have an older pet, follow the same tips… it might just take longer to achieve.
- Your aim should be that your teeth cleaning sessions should be associated with a positive experience. Choose a time when your pet is comfortable and relaxed.
- Take it slowly and keep sessions short. Stop while your pet is still happy.
- Introduce the toothpaste on your finger and allow your cat or dog to lick it off.
- After they have shown that they like the taste of the toothpaste, start to run your finger along the inside of their mouth.
- Put some paste on the finger glove or the brush and allow your pet to lick the paste off. Don’t put the brush in their mouth yet.
- Once they’re comfortable with licking the brush/ glove, you can introduce the brush into the mouth. Start by targeting the front teeth, making circular movements and allowing frequent licks (so they are continuously rewarded).
- Gradually as your pet accepts having the canines and incisors brushed, you can move onto the molars.
It usually takes several weeks to gradually introduce your pet to brushing; go slow and introduce the next step every few days once they’re comfortable. If you can, concentrate on where tooth meets gum.
We’re here to help you do the best for your pet’s dental health and protection
You could save money on your pet’s dental care by joining The Healthy Pet Club. Members of the adult cat and dog club are entitled to a dental, scale and polish for one fixed price. Register today >