Dental Care For Dogs & Cats

Author: Danielle Fletcher
Published: Monday 23rd September 2013
Updated: Monday 19th May 2014

There are a wide range of products designed to brighten our smiles, keep our breath fresh and our mouths “attractive”. For most of us, an undisputed part of our daily routine is brushing our teeth and when we miss it out on just one occasion we really notice it. So why should our pets' teeth be ignored?

A mouth is a perfect home for bacteria and they thrive in the warm, moist and nutrient rich environment provided. Plaque forms as a soft, slimy film on the surface of teeth when food particles and bacteria stick to the surface along with other substances. Tartar results when plaque is not successfully removed and a hardened yellow-brown deposit is formed.

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and can be reversed. Bacteria are attracted to the plaque and growing tartar build up on the teeth both above and below the gum line. They produce toxins, irritating the delicate gum tissue and cause infection. Symptoms are swollen, red gums that also bleed easily and may product pus when touched.

Periodontitis is the irreversible result of untreated gingivitis and affects the entire area around the tooth surface, including the special connective tissue and substance that hold teeth in place. The gums start to recede from teeth and holes called “pockets” form where food debris becomes trapped. Plaque and tartar spread beneath the gum line and ultimately, the resulting infections erode away the supporting structures and teeth are lost or have to be removed.

Advanced periodontitis may affect internal organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart. Bacteria enter bloodstream from lesions in the mouth and are carried around the body. There is also evidence to support that diabetic pets are more likely to develop gum disease and this in turn can affect control of blood sugar levels.

Symptoms to watch out for:

  • persistent bad breath

  • yellow-brown build up on teeth, especially near the gums

  • reddened, swollen or bleeding gums

  • excessive drooling

  • loss of appetite and weight loss

  • loose teeth

Some pets will only show pain when the situation has gone too far, so it is best to start their dental routine today and keep on top of it from the start- it will save you money and your pet a lot of unnecessary pain!

So, how do we prevent these problems?

Like us, the most effective preventative is brushing!

Using flavoured enzymatic (not fluoride as this will be swallowed) toothpaste such as Logic Oral Hygiene Gel and a soft bristled toothbrush, ideally once a day but 3-4 times a week will help reduce plaque and prevent tartar formation. You only need to brush the outside of the teeth, as the tongue cleans the inside. Starting from the back, the brush should be used at a 45° angle and in a circular motion, focusing on the area where the teeth meet the gums.

It is best to introduce brushing slowly, the earlier the better. Use your fingers to check your pets teeth and gums first, until they are happy to let you run your fingers over them. Then you can introduce the toothpaste- let them lick it off of your finger first and then you can try rubbing it into their teeth.

Introducing a toothbrush may be slightly more difficult but Logic Oral Hygiene Gel comes with a very soft finger brush which is more easily accepted. If your pet really won't accept brushing, most gels and toothpastes will still be beneficial if licked from a paw or your finger.

Dental diets

Dogs and cats evolved as carnivores and in the wild, very little of a prey goes to waste after all the effort of catching it. Feathers and bones provide abrasive surfaces to naturally clean teeth and strengthen teeth and keep gums healthy.

There are huge ranges of foods designed to meet every possible dietary need but very few can come close to providing the correct textures to ensure good dental health. Diets such as Hills T/D have a unique fibre alignments to prevent kibble from shattering early, so teeth sink in further, allowing the fibres to rub on more of the surfaces. They also contain adjusted levels of other ingredients to lower the formation of plaque and mineralisation to tartar. You should ask your vet if a dental diet is suitable for your pet before swapping them onto it.

Dental chews & toys

Chewing and gnawing mechanically cleans teeth and promotes healthy gums. Chews such as Logic Orozyme Dental and Genitrix Dentagen Plaque Prevention are very palatable and contain enzyme that prevent bacterial growth and plaque formation. They can be given every day as part of a home dental regime.

Dental Toys such as those in the Kong Dental range are durable and they have grooves and bumps where pastes can be hidden when used in conjunction with flavoured toothpaste or dental treats. They provide another way of exercising your dog's teeth and gums while keeping them entertained for longer. Dogs also love a good game of tug-of-war and rope toys are ideal, plus they have the perfect texture for getting between teeth and scraping off plaque.

Food & water additives

Some products can be added to food and consumed as part your pet's normal meals. Plaque Off contains a type of seaweed that dentists discovered to have antibacterial properties and has now been formulated into both top selling human and pet products. Water additives such as Tropiclean are also popular with pet owners who struggle to brush their pet's teeth in between check ups with the vet or dental hygienist.

Ask your vet!

If you are at all concerned about your pet or are unsure what you need to look for, take your pet to the vet for a thorough oral examination and they will advise you accordingly.