Dental problems are the most common health issue among pets, affecting at least 70% to 80% of dog and cats. Problems that develop in the mouth can seriously affect the overall health of pets and could potentially affect quality of life, as well as longevity. Daily dental care plays an important role in the overall health of your dog or cat. Some breeds are more prone to dental disease. It is more common in smaller breeds of dogs.
Every regular exam in our clinic includes a thorough dental exam. If we find signs of disease, we will recommend a treatment plan. It is important for the overall health of your pet that we take care of any dental problems we find. We will also recommend a home care plan that is a key part of keeping your pet healthy.
If a dental cleaning is recommended for your pet and approved by you an appointment will be scheduled for the first available day.
Dental Home Care: How to Brush Your Pet's Teeth
Perhaps you have a young pet with great teeth and you want to keep them that way. Or your pet just had a teeth cleaning and you don't want to go through that again any sooner than need be. For whatever reason you've chosen this handout, by starting on a dental home care plan you will improve your pet's health & help them live longer!
Why brush your pet's teeth? Why do you brush your own? The most important reason is to decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth and prevent plaque & calculus upon which bacteria breed. Bacteria from dirty teeth enter the blood stream through the gums. Those bacteria settle in the tiny vessels of the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys. Then the body attacks those sites. Clean teeth help keep the major organs of the body healthy. In addition, your pet will loose fewer teeth and this will result in a stronger jaw bone. And you'll save money on professional teeth cleanings!
Brushing your pet's teeth is the gold standard of dental care. Think about it. You know you should avoid sweets & eat a proper diet to reduce dental disease. But would that be adequate enough or do you still need to brush?
Getting Started: Remember to start slowly & use lots of praise. Many pets who haven't had their mouths handled may be very leery of having hands or foreign objects like tooth brushes in their mouths.
Start with a flavored pet toothpaste. These have tastes your pet will like and your pet may be more willing to have their teeth touched.
Start by using only your finger & rub the toothpaste over the outer teeth. This is where most of the tartar & calculus develops and where the gum disease is the worst. Your pet doesn't need to open its mouth. You don't need to clean along the inside of the teeth.
Once your pet is comfortable with this, try to introduce a thin cloth or gauze wrapped over your finger. This will increase the abrasive action of the rubbing & result in more debris coming off the teeth.
If your pet learns to tolerate the thin cloth or gauze you may be able to move up to a toddler toothbrush. Try a nice small ultra-soft toddler toothbrush. Guard the end of the brush so you don't bump roughly into the gums. Work in gently circular motions along the gum/tooth line.
Make brushing your pet's teeth part of your daily routine. Do it at the same time each day. It'll be easier for your pet to accept & for you to remember. If time is tight, do this at least every other day.
Always use pet toothpaste. Why? Because pet's don't spit! They swallow the toothpaste & it must be safe to eat. People toothpaste will foam/froth and this will make pets vomit. People toothpaste contains fluoride and is more abrasive than pet toothpaste due to sodium bicarbonate & other ingredients. Many of these compounds shouldn't be swallowed or are too harsh on the softer enamel of dogs & cats.
Be sure to clean the canine teeth & the large molars that extend far back into the mouth. Don't try to hand scale your pet's teeth. Their enamel is thinner than ours and hand scaling leaves etches to which plaque & calculus adheres. Plaque will build up faster if you hand scale than if you did nothing!
Ways to manage your pet's dental health.
- Daily tooth brushing (using special formulated toothpastes for pets)
- Edible chews- we offer Medical Medi-Chews and C.E.T. chews
- Regular checkups with our doctors or veterinary dental hygienists
- Plaque Prevention Gel
- Breathalyzer Gel
Good nutrition throughout the life of your pet. We recommend Medical Dental Formula or Hill's Prescription Diet T/D formula. It provides a nutritious everyday feeding solution that works between dental cleanings to help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation.
Recognizing dental problems
A pet's bad breath can be a sign that your cat or dog may be developing dental problems, including the buildup of plaque and tartar. If ignored, many types of dental conditions are not only irreversible, but can eventually result in tooth loss or contribute to severe health issues, such as heart, liver, and kidney failure.
Other signs of a serious dental condition include:
- Excessive drooling
- Painful chewing
- Gum receding or discoloration
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Yellow or brown crust on teeth
- Change in eating habits
Dental Disease in Cats & Dogs
You've been told it is important to brush your pet's teeth…or you've been told to have your pet's teeth cleaned. Now you may be wondering why? Just what is dental disease? How does it affect your pet?
What causes dental disease?
Dental disease is caused by bacteria in the mouth. The first signs may only be red & inflamed gums. Quickly, the bacteria & calcium in the saliva combine to form plaque which progresses into tartar and calculus. Calculus traps bacteria & debris between the gums and teeth. As the tartar & calculus build up, they begin to push the gums back. With gum recession the tooth sockets are exposed. The sockets may become infected, roots can abscess & teeth may be lost. Worst of all…dental disease is painful!!
Common Signs of Dental Disease
- Bad breath
- Rubbing the face
- Poor self grooming
- Nasal discharge
- Decreased chewing
- Soft food preference
- Pawing at the mouth
- Teeth chatter or grinding
- Difficulty picking up toys or food
- Hesitancy to open or close the mouth
- Unusual passive or aggressive behaviour
- Head or mouth handling shyness
- Constant nose licking
It's not just in the mouth!
The problem with inflamed & receding gums is not limited to the mouth. Yes, the tonsils and throat region may become inflamed but more importantly, the infection in the mouth may spread to other parts of the body - primarily the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
Certain dogs such as small breed dogs are more prone to dental disease. However, almost all dogs will develop dental disease at some point.