Dr. Sophie Bell a Veterinary Surgeon, looks into another myth for our mythbuster series. Will your pet be fine if you don't clean its teeth?.
Just like us, cats and dogs can develop a build-up of plaque over time if their teeth are not brushed. This can lead to dental problems.
Although some may believe the correct diet choices, giving raw meaty bones, carrots or dental treats can keep your pets mouth healthy, there is still no better prevention than cleaning their teeth.
Why should I clean my pet’s teeth?
Dental disease is the second most common complaint we see in dogs. It is estimated that around 85% of dogs have periodontal disease by the age of 3.
It is not much better for cats, where it is estimated that 50-90% of cats aged 4 and over are suffering with dental disease.
This can lead to pain and tooth loss in the future. And if it's being treated by a vet it may result in the use of a general anaesthetic. Along with being stressful for you and your pet, it can be expensive, especially if you don't have insurance that can cover it.
The aim of the game as a pet owner is to reduce plaque. This is the biggest cause of dental disease.
Other contributing factors of dental disease:
- Dietary choices
How to clean your pet's teeth
You may need to start with a soft finger brush, especially if they are not used to tooth brushing. Ideally, you would brush each individual tooth surface and around the gum line but this may take time before you can achieve this.
Always pick pet-friendly toothpaste and never use human toothpaste. Eventually, you might be able to introduce a child’s toothbrush.
It is a great idea to get young animals used to toothbrushing as soon as possible. Most adult teeth have erupted in both dogs and cats at around 6 months of age.
If they are teething and gums are sore they may not like you touching their mouth too often, so use one of the soft finger brushes and perhaps pop the toothpaste in the fridge so it feels cold and soothing.
Brushing twice a day is ideal, but 3 times per week minimum will help prevent dental problems. If toothbrushing is proving tricky, you could choose a chlorhexidine-based toothpaste. These pastes can be rubbed onto the tooth and gums using a gloved finger. They remain in contact with the mouth a little longer to help fight bacteria and break down plaque.
Add toothbrushing into your regular routine. And while you are at it, this is a great opportunity to check general mouth health and inspect gum colour, which should be salmon pink in healthy cats and dogs.
Read our other Mythbusting Articles:
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- Mythbuster: Alabama Rot is contagious from dog to dog
- Mythbuster: Owners should stop feeding a cat or dog that is vomiting or has diarrhoea