Keeping our pets’ teeth healthy is key to the health and well-being of our furry friends.
Getting pets accustomed to good oral hygiene from an early age – ideally from the time they have their adult teeth out – can help prevent dental disease and other serious health problems like the associated heart disease.
The science behind pet dental care
Unfortunately, dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed health problems in both cats and dogs: 3 out of 4 dogs over the age of 3 suffer from it. It is also the most common condition affecting dogs.
Given its pervasive nature, researchers are investigating this condition to look for new ways to prevent and delay its onset. Thanks to their efforts, we know that dogs are more prone to gum disease (inflammation of the structures that support the teeth) than to tooth decay (cavities). This is because dogs lack the type of bacteria that cause cavities in humans. The researchers also found which types of bacteria are linked to gum disease in cats.
How do you know if your pet has developed gum disease?
First, make sure your cat or dog is comfortable with your mouth touching it. Gums should be pink (redness means inflammation, a sign of disease) and teeth should be off-white with minimal tartar deposition (a colorless deposit). Tartar can build up unseen below the gum line, so pets need regular oral health checkups.
Pets normally hide their pain, so be sure to watch out for these more obvious signs:
chewing one side of the mouth
Trouble eating (especially if dropping food while eating)
Not playing often with his favorite toys
avoiding touching their nose or head
sneezing or runny nose
Lumps under the eyes or in the mouth
Usually aloof and less enthusiastic than usual
Why is prevention better than cure?
Dental disease in pets develops slowly and can be reversed if caught and treated early. However, prevention is better than any treatment, especially when it comes to small breeds of dogs. They are more prone to gum disease than larger breeds, and our research has shown that if left untreated, the condition develops rapidly and progresses even faster with age. The same study showed that gum disease develops even when there are no visible signs of gingivitis, the first stage of the condition.
4 steps to keep your pet’s teeth healthy
Step 1: Brush your pet’s teeth at home
Establishing an oral hygiene routine from an early age can help pets endure and even enjoy daily brushing.
Step 2: Oral health exams
Take your pet to the vet for an oral health checkup every 6 months. The veterinarian will examine the teeth for tartar and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and recommend special treatments if necessary.
Step 3: Chewing
Feeding dogs dental chews can also help prevent gum disease, as some can reduce tartar. Dogs love to chew, so when it comes to toys, be sure to choose a safe one to protect your dog’s teeth.
Step 4: Include dry foods in their diet
A home care regimen that includes daily brushing, scientifically proven dental chews, and regular veterinary checkups will ensure you do your best to maintain good oral hygiene for your pet. Also, feeding dry food can help maintain your pet’s oral health. For dogs particularly prone to dental disease, you may want to consider feeding a dry food specifically designed to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.