We all know the importance of looking after our own teeth and some of us know the feeling of having a painful tooth and how unpleasant that can be.
What about your pets’ teeth? Are they in good condition? Are they in pain?
Sometimes our pets will give us signs they have a painful tooth, but in most cases we will be unaware they have pain. Dogs, and especially cats will often swallow their food with little or no chewing. If you have ever seen a cat vomit up its food it usually looks exactly like the meal you just fed. A slightly soggy looking pile of biscuits, rather than a ground up brown mush.
In contrast, we humans usually like to chew our food before swallowing. My mum has always told me off for eating too fast, but even so, I am pretty sure I chew my food.
Dental care is not just about treating painful rotten teeth. We all brush our teeth daily to try to prevent serious dental disease developing. Keeping our own teeth and our pet’s teeth clean has greater benefits than just preventing them going rotten.
That brown tartar on the teeth is a mixture of minerals and bacteria. This ultimately causes gum disease. As a result, bacteria is being constantly swallowed, causing gastro-intestinal disease and also absorbed directly into the blood stream, potentially causing other more serious diseases. Having clean healthy teeth and gums is, therefore, good for our pet’s health, not to mention more pleasant when you get a licky kiss in the face.
How do we keep our pets’ teeth clean?
It is possible to brush our pets’ teeth although very few people actually do. To be effective it needs to be done regularly and the pet needs to tolerate having their teeth brushed. The best way to do this is to start as a puppy or kitten and get them used to it early as part of their training. Pets generally don't like our peppermint toothpaste so you should use a pet toothpaste.
Many dental chews are available and can help keep the teeth clean. These also need to be given regularly, ideally daily. Many people are disappointed when they give these dental chews, as the dog scoffs them in a couple of minutes. This is normal; they are designed to be bitten through and chewed up and swallowed, rather than gnawed on for hours.
Diet is also important. Dental biscuits, bones and meat that require chewing can help. Bones can be beneficial, but are also a double-edged sword, as many dogs will ultimately break their teeth chewing bones. I think bones should be uncooked, and too large to swallow. I would not recommend feeding bones your dog can shatter into pieces.
Despite a good diet, some dogs and cats will require their teeth to be cleaned. This is done by your local vet and is very like having your own teeth cleaned except it’s done under anaesthetic. This surprises many people, but the reality is that the vast majority of pets wouldn't tolerate any type of dentistry being done while awake.
If you are unsure about your pet’s teeth get some advice from your vet.
My name is Lance Eastman and I am the local vet here in Blockhouse Bay.
I first started working in the Bay in 1997 and tried to escape overseas for awhile but eventually ended up back where I started.
I did return with a Scottish wife, Jacqueline who is also a vet and my business partner at the clinic.
I have been writing articles on matters related to pets for over ten years now. Sometimes I run out of ideas and get my dog "Breeze" or my cat "Radish" to write something for me. Most people prefer to read these articles over what I write but it can be hard to motivate your pets to write sometimes.