Dog and cat dental care and treatment
Your pet's dental health is very important - without care and attention, oral disease and other associated problems can occur. Not only is an unhealthy mouth painful, but it can also cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream, where it can damage internal organs and make your beloved pet very poorly.
Different elements can contribute to dental disease:
- Plaque- caused by a build-up of bacteria on the surfaces of the teeth, most commonly the premolars and molars
- Tartar (calculus)- if plaque is not removed, after a few days, it combines with minerals in the saliva to form this hardened substance, which in turn can cause gingivitis (reddening of the gums)
- Periodontal disease- over time, tartar builds up under the gum line and separates the bony structures of the jaw from the teeth. Abscesses can form, which lead to increased bacteria levels that can enter the bloodstream. Once at this stage, the condition is irreversible, and dental treatment is required
- Trauma - many objects can damage teeth, such as stones or sticks. Only provide toys that are safe for your pet to chew or play games with.
By examining your pet's mouth regularly, you will be able to pick up the early warning signs, which could prevent pain and avoid the need for tooth extractions.
Often the most common reason dental advice is sought is due to halitosis (bad breath), but other indicators of poor dental health include:
- red or bleeding gums
- dropping food
- heavy tartar deposits
- receded gums
- difficulty eating
- pawing at the face.
The most effective routine for your pet is twice daily teeth brushing, just like our own routine!
Brushing your pet's teeth
Ideally, brush your pet's teeth every day with pet friendly toothpaste and a pet toothbrush. Begin introducing your pet to the toothpaste by placing a small amount on your finger and letting him/her lick it off. Once your pet readily accepts the toothpaste, you can place your finger with some toothpaste on into his/ her mouth and gently rub the teeth and gums. Repeat this until your pet is happy to have their teeth lightly brushed.
When your pet becomes comfortable with light brushing, they can be introduced to the toothbrush. Wet the toothbrush to soften the bristles slightly and apply a small amount of toothpaste. Keeping the mouth closed is best, so lift the lip and start at the back of the mouth inside the cheek using a circular motion. The teeth at the front of the mouth are best brushed with an up and downward motion.
A variety of dental diets are available, such as Hills T/D and Royal Canin Dental. The structure of the food is designed so that when your pet starts to eat, the kibble remains intact until the tooth has penetrated through the biscuit, thus cleaning the teeth.
Solutions are available to add to your pet's daily drinking water. They inhibit plaque build-up and help keep your pet's breath fresh. Oral rinses are also available with similar properties.
Chews and treats
Many dental chews and treats can be found from some sources (vets/pet shops/supermarkets). The shape and texture of the chews /treats are designed for maximum tooth contact, preventing plaque and tartar formation; some even are flavoured to give a minty fresh smell. It is important to remember that dental chews/treats contain calories, which should be factored into your pet's overall intake.
Rabbit dental care
Unlike dogs and cats, rabbit's teeth cannot be brushed; therefore, other measures are required to prevent dental disease. Rabbit's teeth are continuously growing, so appropriate feeding regimes for your rabbit is essential. Rabbits required 80-85% of their diet to be hay or grass alone!
Access to grass
Grass contains phytoliths, small sandpaper-like crystals that effectively clean and wears your rabbit's teeth.
Muesli feeds are not recommended as they contain high sugar levels, which is not good for the teeth (think sweets and children!) At Chess Vets, we recommend Excel Rabbit or Supreme, both high-quality pellet diets.
Signs of dental disease in rabbits
A few tell-tale signs can often indicate problems associated with dental disease:
- Monitor the size of your rabbit's faecal droppings. Small droppings can be related to dental disease due to the rabbit wanting to graze less and only eat pelleted food, thus decreasing the amount of food and waste produced
- Weight loss is also a key indicator of dental disease. We recommend weighing your rabbit once a week, so you spot any weight loss early
- If your rabbit stops eating, even for half a day, please call the Chess Vets team, who will advise you accordingly.
By regularly checking your rabbit and ensuring a good quality balanced diet, the risk of dental problems can be minimised.