There are many ways in which we can keep our pet’s mouths healthy and clean for as long as possible. These range from chews to toys, to specially formulated diets, to the gold standard – dental treatment.
Most teeth are designed to erupt once, and not regrow (there are exceptions e.g. rabbits), therefore with each passing year teeth are eroded, not just by attrition from chewing food but also the bacterial load within the mouth. We cannot stop this, but we can help to slow the process, and if teeth progress beyond saving there are still ways we can keep your pet’s mouth comfortable for years to come.
There are many types of products on the market which can help with your pet’s oral hygiene. Some require effort on the owner’s part, others not so much. As we all know every animal is different so what suits one may not another. The aim of this article is to give you as much information as possible about the options available. Cats are NOT small dogs, and as such some of the options will be redundant for our feline friends, due to certain behavioural differences between the species.
1. Tooth Brushing – Humans brush their teeth to prevent a build-up of plaque and reduce bacterial load; daily brushing would be a good idea for your pet. With some of our pets this may not be tolerated well. The best, as always, is to introduce it from a young age, initially with just the toothpaste (specially formulated for animals), then slowly introducing the brush. Ideally once daily, however some is better than none.
2. Antler – Yes, the kind found on deer. These are surprisingly easy to find in pet shops, and are sterilised before being sold. Antler is layer upon layer of keratin (similar to skin) meaning that 1) Is a completely natural product 2) no sharp edges 3) doesn’t break off in chunks which can cause blockages etc. 4) your pet can chew and chew and chew, and still only wear it down very slightly. The natural surface of antler is very abrasive, giving a very good surface on which to remove any plaque or tartar present on their teeth. Antlers have very few calories, meaning they can be used alongside any specific diet programme.
3. Dry Food – It sounds very simple, and it really is. Dry food is shown to be a lot more effective at preventing the build-up of plaque and tartar than wet food. This is mainly through the abrasive effect on the teeth. The moisture of wet food provides an environment for the bacteria to multiply within the mouth, which can lead to rapid deterioration in oral hygiene, and may lead to more invasive measures being required sooner.
4. Dental Diets – The kibble will allow most of the tooth to pass through, therefore abrading the superficial surface of the tooth, removing any plaque or tartar present. There are also light versions for pets which struggle with weight issues.
5. Dental Chews – These have a place in providing better oral hygiene for our pets. However, although the rough edges are designed to help break plaque and tartar off their teeth, quite a lot of animals will just chew a couple of times then swallow, without providing all of the plaque removing capability of these chews. They can also be calorific.
6. Dental Scale and Polish under General Anaesthetic – Although the gold standard of all oral hygiene, the consideration is of course that an anaesthetic is required. However, if none of the above are possible, then in order to maintain a perfect smile or remove a brewing source of infection, your vet may advise a dental. These are especially applicable if any teeth need to be removed due to excessive calculus, gum recession, erosion, fractures, or the development of an abscess at the root within the bone. For our more elderly patients, we would advise a routine set of blood work beforehand, just to ensure we have a better understanding of your pet’s internal organ function before going under the anaesthetic. Before every dental, we offer an assessment free of charge in a pre-dental check, to ensure we have the best understanding of what your pet requires. After the dental we provide regular check-ups as part of the total package, so that you have peace of mind that all is well with your pet. If your pet does have a dental we can provide before and after pictures just to show the massive improvement in oral hygiene within your pets’ mouth.
Overall anything is better than nothing.
If you have any questions about oral hygiene, please contact your local branch, where any of our vets or qualified nurses will be more than happy to advise to your individual pet’s needs.