How to look after your pet’s teeth
20 May 2021
Research at Cornell University suggests 90% of cats over the age of four suffer from some form of dental disease. And with dogs, it’s more than 80%.
These high numbers are understandable when you think about it, our pets explore their world with their mouths. While most pets are pretty good when it comes to grooming and keeping their coats healthy, they can’t pick up a toothbrush and look after their teeth and gums in the same way.
This is where you, as their responsible owner comes in. The majority of dental disease is preventable with a little time, patience and knowledge.
What are the most common dental diseases in dogs?
Periodontal diseases are most common in dogs and this is where they get an infection and inflammation in the tissue surrounding the tooth. Luckily, it’s easy to stop any dental problems in your dog from getting this far.
Periodontal diseases often start out as gingivitis which just like humans can be easily noticed by gums being redder than normal and swelling. This is caused by bacteria in the mouth getting into the gums.
To make sure any gingivitis doesn’t progress into a more serious periodontal disease, you need to be checking your dog’s mouth every day and looking out for signs of swelling or bleeding gums.
What are the most common dental diseases in cats?
Just like humans (and dogs), cats can be prone to gingivitis and this can also lead to periodontal diseases. This is also noticeable from inflamed or bleeding gums.
The problem cats have that many dogs don’t is it’s harder for their owners to notice anything’s wrong until they start going off their food.
Whereas your dog might be happy to walk up to you with their tongue hanging out and mouth wide open, most cats don’t do this, so you have to be especially vigilant.
How can I check my dog for dental disease?
The best way to keep your dogs’ teeth healthy is to get them used to being checked from a young age. If they’re used to you gently opening their mouths and even using a dog toothbrush, they’ll be more tolerable of this as they get older.
If you’ve adopted an older dog, you’ll need to earn their trust before you start putting your hand inside their mouth. If you’re confident they’re relaxed, start by gently lifting their lips when panting or already have their mouth open.
How can I check my cat for dental disease?
As with dogs, getting a kitten used to you checking their teeth from an early age will make it easier as they get older.
If you’ve adopted an older cat, you’ll need to go slowly. If they’re playful, you might be able to see their teeth during playtime.
Many cats like having their cheeks and ears scratched, the more your cat is used to your hands around their head and the more they associate your hands with something that feels nice, the more inclined they’re going to be to let you have your hands near their mouth.
How can I prevent my pet getting a dental disease?
As mentioned, the earlier you start checking your cat or dogs’ teeth the better, if they’re happy for you to look at their gums on a regular basis, you’ll be more likely to notice when something’s wrong.
You can buy cat and dog toothbrushes and toothpaste but it’s very important you introduce your pet to this gradually as it will be a very unnatural sensation for them to begin with. Start by just letting your pet sniff the toothbrush and let them decide if they want to lick it or have it in their mouth. You can try adding some water from a can of tuna or some chicken fat to the brush as this will incentivise most pets to start licking.
Never ever use human toothpaste as it contains xylitol which is toxic to dogs. Most cats won’t instinctively try to consume anything with xylitol in it as dogs might, but if it is ingested by a cat, it can produce a sudden release of insulin resulting in low blood sugar. If you’re ever worried your pet might have consumed anything poisonous by mistake, it’s essential you phone your vets immediately.
Kibble and dry food can also be an effective way to help keep plaque and tartar under control as the abrasive edges act as a natural brush.
Although cats aren’t usually as enthusiastic about chew toys, something for your dog to chew on can be a great way to help keep their teeth clean. Coffee tree wood and yak chews are very long-lasting and don’t splinter very easily but remember to always supervise your dog when they’re chewing anything.
How much does it cost to treat dental disease in cats and dogs?
The cost of treating anything will always depend on the pet, their history and what needs to be done. As most cats and dogs don’t like vets poking about in their mouths, it’s always safer for them to be given a general anaesthetic so a proper examination can take place. If a simple cleaning is all that’s needed, they’ll need to be asleep for this too. Most vets will charge up to $500 for dog teeth cleaning and $400 for a cat.
If teeth need to be removed, an x-ray might be needed to see the extent of any problems and maybe even blood tests if there’s a chance an infection might have caused kidney problems. Your pet will probably need some painkillers and antibiotics in this case too.
This means the cost can range from anything from a single consultation fee if all is fine to $5000+ if lots of treatment is needed.
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