It’s time to brush up on your pet’s oral hygiene

Looking after our pets’ teeth is just as important as looking after our own and an important part of responsible pet ownership, according to PDSA.

With National Pet Smile month in September fast approaching, the UK’s leading veterinary charity is warning pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their animals’ dental health. Dental disease is one of the most common diseases of pets, but it can be prevented with routine dental care.

PDSA senior vet, Elaine Pendlebury, says: “Dental disease causes pain in the mouth and is linked with other health problems around the body, including kidney and heart valve conditions. Gum disease happens five times more frequently in dogs than it does in humans – probably due to a lack of tooth brushing. It’s also more common in older animals. Tooth-brushing is the best way to prevent dental disease and this can be a daily, stress-free procedure if begun during the first few weeks of a pet’s life.”

As in humans, plaque – a mixture of food particles and bacteria – sticks to the teeth’s surface. The minerals in the pet’s saliva harden this, turning it into tartar which firmly attaches to the teeth. Over time, plaque and tartar spread under the pet’s gums, leading to damage of the tissue supporting the teeth and a buildup of infection. If allowed to progress, dental disease will damage the gums and eventually affected teeth may fall out.

The best way to prevent plaque from building up is to brush cats’ and dogs’ teeth every day. If this is begun in the right way, when they are kittens and puppies, it will become normal for them and part of their daily routine.

Elaine said: “Begin by lifting your pet’s lip and gently touch their teeth and gums. By building up slowly, step by step, your pet will gradually become used to having their teeth brushed and won’t be scared of it. The same technique can be used with older animals, but it may take a little longer for them to become used to each step.”

Feeding specially formulated dental diets, using special toys used to help with tooth cleaning when playing with your pet, offering dental chews and avoiding sticky, sweet foods will also help prevent dental disease, but tooth-brushing is the gold standard method for prevention.

If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating or rubbing the face with a paw, make an appointment with your vet for a check up.