Teeth care in cats and dogs

Dental Care for Cats & Dogs

As pet owners we’re rightly pleased that our pets are able to live a long life.  But we’d hope that it’s one free of discomfort and pain.  Dental disease is a condition that causes just such problems for our pets in a slow and insidious manner.  We appreciated the importance of looking after our own teeth a long time ago – hence the reason for regular check ups with a dentist.  In one study of pets an estimated 70% of cats over the age of three were seen to be suffering from oral disease.  It’s a similar picture in dogs.  As the mouth is the gateway to the body, any infection left untreated here will eventually have knock-on effects further down the line.

How would I know if my pet has dental disease?

That particular question is not too easy to answer.  In its worst form when there is gum and tooth decay the bad smell on a pet’s breath should be fairly obvious.  That, along with discomfort when eating and possible weight loss would lead us to the conclusion that there’s likely to be a dental problem.  But dental disease is a slow, creeping problem so the early signs are subtle.  Being a bit quiet, slightly more fussy with their food and choosing soft rather than hard food types may give a clue.  But even these so-called early signs are quite a long way in to the problem.  One of the earliest signs in the staging of dental disease is inflammation of the gums.  At the annual health checks young cats and dogs are routinely examined for this developing problem with the upper back gum regions being most commonly affected.

How can I stop dental infection happening?

With ourselves the mainstay of dental hygiene is linked to regular (and thorough) teeth cleaning.  Diet helps as well but for the most part it’s down to getting serious with a toothbrush. The prospect of this procedure with a dog (or cat!) can be pretty daunting and it also needs to be done twice daily to be effective.  It may be possible in dogs, but realistically, life is just a bit too busy for most of us to set aside the time, assuming our canine companion is cooperative.  Once a day teeth cleaning won’t be sufficient to stop the progress of plaque on your pet’s teeth.  On that basis then we need to find a different way of approaching the problem.  For dogs that can involve the introduction of dental chews to try and clear the mulch off their teeth.  Most of these chews, sadly, have a very high fat content (causing weight gain) and are consumed in minutes (or even seconds in some cases).  If they’re not being chewed then they’re pretty pointless.  The HiLife dental chews are very low in fat content, which is why dogs may be less enthusiastic about them compared to others on the market.  As with any dental chew though some dogs can choke on them if they decide to swallow them whole!  Of course the reason why a dental chew is necessary in the first place is because the diet they’re on is leading to problems.  So perhaps we should be addressing that? There are makes of food that are good at helping reduce the build up of plaque on a pet’s teeth.  Chatting this through with your Vet at the next annual health check is a good starting point, although of course a chat before then would be even better. Changing diet can be a delicate process for some dogs and cats (especially cats) so it needs to be done slowly so as not to cause belly upsets or a stand off between owner and pet – because we all know who wins that particular battle!