Pet Dental Care
Could you imagine what would happen if we decided never to brush our teeth again - what a mess! Unable to brush and floss, pets rely on their owners, and veterinarians, to provide the care they need. Oral health care for our pets is very important as dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. Over 68% of all pets over the age of 3 have some form of periodontal or dental disease. Most pets will show few signs of dental disease therefore it is up to pet owners, and their veterinarian, to uncover this hidden and often painful condition.
We have put together some information which we hope you will find useful regarding dental information, however if you have any questions concerning your pet’s oral care please call us at (780) 458-6051 and talk to a member of our healthcare team.
Complimentary Dental Consultations
To help promote oral care for your pets, Tudor Glen Vet Hospital offers complimentary dental consultations with our Animal Health Technicians (these are available to both clients and non-clients). The consultation includes an oral exam, a demonstration on how to brush your pet’s teeth, a discussion on nutrition and a bag of Hills t/d dental food. These dental consultations are our way of promoting pet dental awareness. To book your consultation, please call: 780 458-6051.
Signs of Peridontal Disease
All pets are at risk of developing dental problems. Once a pet displays any of the warning signs below, serious periodontal disease may be present. Please don’t wait for these signs to appear; we recommend you schedule regular examinations and yearly cleanings by your veterinarian to prevent pain, tooth loss and systemic disease. Below are some of the warning signs to indicate that your pet may be suffering from periodontal disease:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Tooth loss
- Abnormal drooling
- Dropping food out of the mouth
- Swallowing food whole
- Yellow-brown crust on teeth
- Bleeding gums
- Going to the food bowl but not eating
- Change of chewing or eating habits
- Subdued behavior
How a Simple Dental Infection Spreads
More than 85% of cats and dogs over four years old suffer from periodontal disease, a condition in which bacteria attacks the soft gum tissue. As bacteria multiply on the tooth surface, they form a coating called plaque. The bacteria forming the plaque produces toxins which irritate the gums. In time, the plaque mineralizes and hardens, becoming what is called calculus, or tartar. This irritates the gums making them tender, red and swollen.
Eventually, the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth creating pockets that trap food particles and provide an excellent location for more bacteria to grow. As these pockets deepen, the development of plaque and tartar can progress along the root of the tooth, causing the tooth to loosen.
Once the gums have reached this state of deterioration, they bleed easily when pets eat and chew. Bacteria from the plaque and tartar accumulation can enter the pet’s bloodstream. THIS IS WHERE THE DANGER LIES. Once bacteria enters the bloodstream, it can travel to major organs and begin infection there.
Organs with the highest blood flow are susceptible to such infections; the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and, in some cases, the nervous system.
Of course good dental hygiene can prevent periodontal disease from developing in the first place. So take proper care of your pet’s mouth!
Good Dental Health Begins with the Proper Diet
The wrong kinds of food can cause dental distress in pets. Feeding your cat or dog a dry food rather than a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar. Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation. Avoid giving your pet sweet treats and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation. We recommend the use of special dry foods designed to reduce plaque and tartar buildup, especially if your pet is prone to dental problems due to his breed or individual genetic history.
Hills t/d food (which is available for both cats and dogs) is formulated specifically for the nutritional management of dogs with dental disease. Its special fiber matrix scrubs the exposed tooth surface like an edible toothbrush, reducing bacteria-laden plaque.
Dental Care Products
Along with a nutritious dental formulated diet, we recommend dental treats and regular brushing. We have a variety of dental chews and toothpastes that contain enzymes that break down the sticky plaque that later forms into tartar if not removed. The enzymes also help fight gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) as they produce an antibacterial action against the bacteria found in plaque and tartar. To help make brushing your pet’s teeth easier, the pet toothpastes we have in stock come in a variety of flavors such as tuna, seafood, chicken, beef and vanilla malt. Human toothpaste should NOT be used on pets as they are foaming products and are not meant to be swallowed. Additionally, many tubes of human toothpastes contain sodium and fluoride which may cause problems in some pets.
Chew toys and chew aids are available, like C.E.T. rawhides for dogs. These contain the same enzymes as pet toothpaste and chewing will not only help keep teeth clean but exercise jaws and relieve boredom.
We also carry a wide range of chew toys, chew aids, toothpastes, tooth rinses/gels and dental treats. KONG’s are a highly favoured toy here at Tudor Glen Veterinary Hospital. They provide hours of mental stimulation, great chewing action and the Dental KONG has the added benefit of grooves shaped like a prophy cup (which is the tool used by dentists for polishing teeth). Simply place a small amount of toothpaste into the grooves and your dog will clean their own teeth.
Dental Home Care
Home care is daily and lifelong, so we want it to be fun, for both you and your pet. A word of caution with regards to home dental care for both cats and dogs. If you have never tried to brush your pets teeth and they already have any degree of poor oral health, please DO NOT start a home care regime on your own. If they have swollen, bleeding gums, loose teeth, resorptive lesions (progressive, destructive legions of the teeth) or oral masses, then brushing will be painful and a very negative experience. Now, on to the good stuff: preventive care..... start young, introduce the concept of tooth brushing as early as possible. But don’t worry, you CAN teach old dogs (and cats) new tricks!
The Golden Rules
- Make all training experiences as pleasant as possible by giving lots of attention and positive rewards
- Start with short periods of training and gradually increase the time. Tooth brushing should take no longer than 5 minutes; therefore the training itself should gradually build up to a maximum of 5 minutes
- Only use pet toothpaste – never use human pastes as they contain fluoride and foaming agents that will upset your pet's stomach, and they do not like the taste
Simple Steps to Easier Brushing
1. Try to get your pets used to having their mouth area and muzzle handled.
2. Start by gently handling the muzzle area for a few seconds on a regular basis. Provide lots of praise and positive reward. As soon as your pet starts to show their dislike, stop and try again later. For best results with puppies and kittens, choose “quiet times” for handling the mouth and muzzle area and end each session on a positive note.
3. Next, introduce pet toothpaste.
- The function of veterinary toothpaste is not only to clean the teeth, but also to serve as a tasty treat to make the brushing process more pleasant
- Introduce a small amount of toothpaste with your finger and gently rub the toothpaste onto the teeth in the same manner as you would with a toothbrush - small circular motions
- Start with the canine teeth (fangs) and gradually work around the entire mouth. Be sure to include the gums as well as the teeth
4. Now it’s time to introduce the toothbrush.
- It is the mechanical action of the toothbrush that cleans your pet's teeth, so this is a crucial stage
- Use a toothbrush provided by your veterinarian or a very soft bristled child’s toothbrush with a small head
- Always wet the bristles of the brush before placing the toothbrush into your pets’ mouth
- Place a line of toothpaste on the brush and press it firmly into the bristles with your finger
- Hold the toothbrush like a pen and concentrate solely on the canine teeth for the first few days, until your pet has accepted the toothbrush. Angle the brush at 45 degrees if possible
5. Once your pet has accepted the toothbrush and toothpaste, you can start to use a gentle, circular motion and work along the top teeth from the canines to the back of the mouth. [Sometimes, holding the muzzle closed while you are cleaning the teeth will help prevent your pet from biting on the toothbrush].
- Repeat on the other side
- Gradually build up the amount of time and pressure applied to each tooth
- Once you and your pet are comfortable with the top teeth being brushed, your attention can then move to the bottom row of teeth, using the same process
- The good news is that most of the tartar accumulation occurs on the outside surface of the teeth so it is not necessary to brush the inside surfaces
- The speed of this step is dependant on your pet and may take several days to a month.
6. Your final step is brushing the front teeth.
- Approach your pet from behind their head and use an up and down motion
7. Remember to continually give praise and positive reward.
Should you have any questions regarding the above process, please ask any member of our veterinary health care team for a demonstration and/or any additional helpful hints.
The time and effort that you commit to this training process can make a significant improvement in your pet’s dental health. This will impact the quality of the life of your pet and enhance the bond that you will share with your treasured companion.
Reference Waltham FOCUS Vol 13, No. 2, 2003