how to take care of the pearly whites

We all know how important dental hygiene is, so why should it be any different in our fur-children?

Have you noticed your fur-child having bad breath? Are they reluctant to eat their kibble or chew bones? These may be signs that our companions are in discomfort with periodontal disease, loose teeth and even tooth root abscesses brewing in the works. As our pets live longer, they will need to rely more and more on their erupted adult teeth throughout their life. It is our job to try and maintain as many healthy teeth as possible.

A long time ago, the wild ancestors of our domestic pets relied on gnawing on the carcass of their hunted prey to keep their dentition clean. Today’s premium pet foods whilst providing a very well balanced variety of nutrition, does little to ensure good oral hygiene.

We rely on twice daily brushing of our pearly whites, flossing and even mouthwash to keep them in tiptop condition. It is ideal to brush the teeth of our pets twice daily also. Just like with children, brushing should be started from an early age. This is the age when pets are most impressionable. Start by putting a finger in the mouth gently and getting them use to you touching their gums and teeth. The same goes for opening their mouths gently as this will make tableting much easier in the future! Care should always be taken not to put your fingers in direct harms way and teeth brushing should always be performed by an adult.

The next step is to upgrade for a few seconds a day to a finger brush or alternatively a pet tooth brush. Gradually increase the frequency of brushing sessions and then add in pet-safe toothpaste once the brush is tolerated well.

Of course whilst brushing is ideal, not all pets will tolerate this experience. Raw bones given under supervision 2-3 times a week after a meal not only helps keep teeth clean but also aids in digestion. Ensure bones given will not splinter (raw veal or beef marrow bones are ideal for dogs) and that there is no element of food aggression if multiple dogs are in the household. Cats can be given raw chicken wings but take care as choking is possible for over-zealous pets who like to inhale their food.

For those that want to keep their carpets clean or pets whose gastrointestinal system will not tolerate raw bones; there are options in the shops including Dentastix and Greenies as a substitute. Dental diets are also aplenty these days. Hill’s T/D, Royal Canin’s Dental Care and Eukanuba’s Dentadefense are common options available at your veterinarian. Most work by increasing the number of times our pets have to chew and also abrading the surface of their teeth whilst they chew. Always make sure food changes are slow to avoid an upset tummy!

In addition to all the preventative measures we can provide our fur-children, don’t forget that an annual health check at your local veterinarian is the best way to detect early signs of disease and perform screening tests to help maintain longevity and a good quality of life! Having a dental scale and polish performed early under a general anaesthetic could prevent on set of severe tooth root infections that could then necessitate extractions! If you ever have doubts about the health of your pet, remember we as vets are always here to help.

Dr Zhu

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