Dental care is something that we are all pretty clear about as humans. Not enough flossing and brushing means that plaque builds up and can lead to some pretty painful problems. The same is true for cats and dogs but unfortunately, oral hygiene is something that is often forgotten or neglected for pets.
It is thought that most pets will have signs of dental disease by the time they reach 3 years old. If left untreated, this can lead to a build up of bacteria and cause some rather serious issues, such as gum disease. In really severe cases, the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and travel around the body, causing permanent damage to organs. Signs of dental disease to watch out for include excessive drooling, bleeding gums, bad breath and broken teeth.
The best thing you can do to help prevent dental disease in your pet is to start brushing their teeth daily, or at least several times a week. Bear in mind that animals aren’t used to using toothbrushes so the process might be slow to begin with. Start by purchasing pet toothpaste, which will be specifically formulated not to have the dangerous sweeteners, and chemicals that can be found in human toothpaste. It’s also likely to be meat flavoured to appeal more to animals and is unlikely to foam in the way that human toothpaste does. You’ll also need a toothbrush or finger brush.
On your first attempt, it’s a good idea to just hold the toothbrush in front of your pet and let them sniff and lick it to get them used to it. You could apply some toothpaste to the brush and let them lick it off so they get used to the taste and texture. Remember to give lots of praise. After that, use your fingers to explore the teeth and gums to get them used to having their mouth touched. Eventually, your pet will be comfortable enough to allow you to brush their teeth. Try not to treat the process as a chore, but as an opportunity to spend some quality time with your pet and remember to give lots of reassurance and praise.
If you don’t have the time or physical ability to brush your pet’s teeth, there are less ‘hands-on’ solutions available, such as medicated rinses that can be added to their drinking water or sprayed into their mouth or chewable dental toys and treats that contain enzymes to help reduce plaque.