Brush up on pet Dental Care for National Smile Month
National Smile Month 14 May – 14 June
Brushing our teeth is a normal part of our daily routine, but did you know it’s also vital to ensure our pets’ pearly whites are kept nice and clean too?
During National Smile Month, PDSA is raising awareness of pet dental care. With dental disease a common problem for many of our four-legged friends, the vet charity is encouraging UK pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their pets’ dental health.
There are some simple, precautionary measures that can be taken to avoid the development of serious and painful dental diseases.
PDSA Vet, Olivia Anderson-Nathan, says: “Dental disease causes pain and can be linked to other health problems. It’s often more obvious in older animals but starts early: four out of five dogs have serious gum disease by the age of three. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to prevent dental disease and ideally should be done daily. The process is usually easier to introduce during the first few months of a pet’s life, but older dogs and cats can be taught too.”
As with humans, plaque – a mixture of food particles and bacteria – sticks to the surface of our pet’s teeth. The minerals in pet saliva harden the plaque, turning it into tartar which firmly attaches to the teeth. Over time, plaque and tartar develop under the pet’s gums, causing discomfort and leading to damage of the tissue supporting the teeth and a build-up of infection. If allowed to progress, dental disease will damage the gums and eventually affected teeth may become loose and prone to infection. Long-standing infections in the mouth can even transfer into the blood and cause other problems around the body, including in the kidneys and heart.
The best way to prevent plaque from building up is to brush cats’ and dogs’ teeth every day. If this is introduced in the right way, ideally when they are kittens and puppies, it will become normal for them and part of their daily routine. The same technique can be used with older animals, but it may take a little longer for them to become used to each step.
- Get your pet used to the taste of pet toothpaste by letting them lick a small amount from the end of your finger. It doesn’t have fluoride like human toothpaste so can be safely swallowed, and is usually a chicken, fish or malt flavour which your pet should enjoy.
- Get them used to the idea of touching around their mouth and gums by starting to gently touch their face, giving positive praise as a reward. Then carry on to lifting up their lips and gently pulling them back so you can look at all of their teeth.
- To get them ready to accept a toothbrush, it’s a good idea to start by gently rubbing a soft cloth along their outer gums and teeth – this gets them used to the idea of having something in their mouth.
- Apply toothpaste to your finger and rub along the outer gums and teeth, gradually progressing to a toothbrush. Do this a few times a week and build up to daily brushing.
Feeding specially formulated dental diets, using special toys to help with tooth cleaning when playing with your pet, offering dental chews and avoiding sticky, sweet foods can also help slow the development of dental disease. None of these things completely replace tooth-brushing: this is the only method that can stop problems under the gums.
If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating or rubbing the face with their paws, make an appointment with your vet for a check-up.
PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information www.pdsa.org.uk.