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Taking Care of Your Pet's Teeth and Gums

Apr 22, 2021
Close up of a dog's teeth

Many pet owners are unaware that bad breath in pets could actually be an indication of certain health issues such as periodontal disease which is one of the most common problems affecting cats and dogs. It's an inflammatory disease that affects the tooth-supporting tissues which may lead to tooth loss.

Almost 80% of dogs and around 70% of cats suffer from oral health problems. Some issues can’t be avoided, however the main reason is that some pet owners don’t take them to the vet for regular checkups and to regularly clean their teeth. Some are als not aware of their pet's needs when it comes to their dental hygiene.

Pet dental hygiene is very important for your pet’s overall health. If you’re not proactive in taking care of their oral health, they may suffer from other health problems. As a responsible pet owner, it's your responsibility to learn the negative impacts of poor dental hygiene on your pet's health and what you can do about it.

The first thing you should do is take your pets to the vet regularly to have their teeth and gums checked. Your vet will offer advice for how often this should be done. Secondly, you must add dental checks to your grooming regime. Common symptoms of dental issues to look out for include:

  • Broken teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Discoloured teeth
  • Bleeding gums
  • Swelling in gums
  • Teeth covered in tartar

Pets become irritable when they have any of these problems, so you may notice that their behaviour and eating habits change.

Before proceeding further, it’s necessary to understand the importance of pet dental hygiene.

Close up of a cat yawning

Why is pet dental hygiene important?

As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to ensure that your cat or dog’s teeth and gums are properly looked after.

Here are some reasons why dental care is so critical to a pet's overall health.

  • Prevents bad breath: Some people just accept that it’s normal for pets to have bad breath, but that’s not strictly true; when your pet has healthy teeth and a healthy mouth, bad breath shouldn’t be a problem.
  • Prevents tooth loss: Your pet's teeth will get loose or fall out when the structure supporting their teeth becomes infected or damaged. Good dental care will ensure that these teeth-supporting structures stay healthy and keep teeth in place.
  • Prevents oral pain: Severe dental disease can be painful for your pet. Keeping your pet's gums and teeth healthy helps prevent this oral pain. This will not only make your pet happier, but it will ensure they continue to eat properly.
  • Prevents worsening dental diseases: Many pets suffer from dental diseases when they are young and it can be difficult to prevent them from developing in the first place. The important thing is that good dental care can prevent these diseases from becoming severe.
  • Prevents organ damage: When your pets do not get proper dental hygiene, plaque starts to build up in their mouth. Bacteria in the plaque can enter the bloodstream and spread to the kidneys, liver, and heart. It can damage organs and make your pet sick. Good oral health can prevent this bacteria from spreading and damaging other organs.
Puppy eating grass

How do you take care of your dog’s dental hygiene, and how often?

You must take care of your dog’s dental hygiene if you want to keep them healthy. Dog teeth cleaning plays a vital role in their overall health and taking care of their oral health and giving them a healthy diet can decrease the risk of periodontal disease later. Furthermore, untreated oral diseases can cause tooth loss and other infections in the mouth.

Oral health care is an essential part of pet training. Here is how you should do it.

How to brush a dog's teeth?

If you want to keep your dog healthy, it’s recommended by veterinary dentists to brush their teeth daily. It can help prevent the build-up of tartar and plaque.

Home dental care is one of the easiest ways to help your dog's gums and teeth stay healthy. Here are some steps showing how to clean a dog's teeth:

  1. Choose a calm place and time for your dog's teeth brushing.
  2. Use a soft toothbrush designed especially for dogs.
  3. Use a vet-recommended toothpaste with a flavour according to your dog's taste buds. Never use human toothpaste.
  4. Introduce the toothpaste to your dog and let them lick it from your finger, and then add the toothpaste to the brush.
  5. Hold the upper lip up and start brushing the top teeth. Brush with a gentle motion to clean gums and teeth.
  6. Make sure to brush the back upper molars and canines. These teeth tend to build up tartar quickly.
  7. It's unnatural for dogs to get their teeth brushed, so many may not enjoy it, especially at first. Help make the experience easier by making it a positive experience for them by giving rewards. Let them play with their favourite toy or treat them to reinforce the brushing process.

How often should you brush your dog's teeth?

Brush your dog's teeth as often as possible. Ideally, that would be once a day. There are several dental care products like toothpaste, brushes, solutions, and dental diets that help you provide your dogs with the home dental care they deserve.

Apart from the home dental care routine, adult dogs need to have their teeth cleaned professionally once a year. It will help you assess your dog's overall health and prevent tartar build-up and gum diseases.

Cat yawning

How do you take care of your cat's dental hygiene, and how often?

Did you know that eight out of ten cats over the age of three have gum and tooth problems? Their teeth accumulate plaque and, if not treated on time, it can lead to tartar and severe periodontal disease. Cat teeth cleaning is essential, so make sure you give proper care and attention to their dental hygiene.

Cat dental hygiene is essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle for them. The most effective way to keep your cat safe from periodontal disease is daily tooth brushing; it helps to keep gums healthy and prevents plaque build-up.

Start brushing when your cat is young because it may seem intimidating at when you first start but, with a gradual approach and patience, they will eventually accept it and the process will become much easier.

How to clean a cat's teeth?

The easiest way to maintain a cat's oral care is by brushing. Here are some steps for brushing a cat's teeth.

  1. Sit with your cat and rub their cheeks and face. Also try stroking them to ensure they are nice and calm.
  2. Put cat toothpaste on your finger and let them lick it off to check if they like the taste or not.
  3. Use a soft toothbrush designed for cats. Put the paste on it and start brushing.
  4. Start with the outside surface of their teeth and move it in a circular motion, focusing on the gum line.
  5. Spend 2-3 minutes brushing their teeth, ideally once a day.
  6. Be consistent with the time you brush their teeth because cats respond to routine. Pick a quiet time and keep surroundings positive and calm.

How often should you brush your cat's teeth?

Ideally, brush your cat's teeth every day and it is recommended to have a professional dental cleaning once a year.

Man stroking a dog

How to make pet dental care easier?

Pet dental hygiene is one of those things that pet owners tend to ignore. This is partly because oral diseases are often difficult to spot, and it seems to some like less of a priority.

Here are some tips to make pet dental care easier for both pet and pet owners.

  • There are multiple products and ways to promote pet dental hygiene, but not all are effective. Try to focus on methods that actually work. Trial and error may be your best bet here.
  • Brushing your pet's teeth is an essential step of dental care. Get your pet used to it when they are young and make it a positive experience by rewarding good behaviour.
  • There are many dental products for pets, from dental powders and gels to dental diet food. These may well work, but you should always talk with your veterinary dentist before giving any new product to your pet.
  • Healthy dental chews and toys are great in moderation. It's important to pick the right chew for your pet. For example, avoid high-calorie cheap dental chews which can lead to weight gain.
  • Every pet should have regular vet visits. It's necessary, especially if you do not give regular dental care at home. For cat owners, it is recommended to get a polish and scale procedure done every 6-12 months.

Pet diseases associated with poor dental hygiene

Pet dental hygiene plays a vital role in their overall health. In fact, some studies show that pets with regular dental care live an average of two years more than those with poor dental care.

Poor dental hygiene affects the health of a pet by spreading bacteria. The tartar and plaque caused by bacteria penetrates below your pet's gum line and causes severe periodontal disease.

In domestic dogs and cats, periodontal disease is the most common problem and affects many of them before they reach three years of age. In the early stages, the symptoms are not obvious but as they progress, they have more significant effects, including severe pain and tooth loss.

The effects of periodontal disease do not stop there. Once your pet's gums get infected, the bacteria can penetrate the bloodstream and damage major organs in the body, including the heart, kidneys, and liver.

Cat yawning

Common dental health problems caused by poor hygiene

Here are some of the common oral health problems that your pet can experience due to bad teeth.

  • Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs)
  • Caries
  • Gingivostomatitis
  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Oral cancers
  • Plaque
  • Tartar

Apart from dental health problems, here are some general health problems caused by poor oral hygiene. These problems affect the overall health and wellbeing of your pet.

  • Bone infections
  • Blood infections
  • Poor appetite
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Heart valve infections
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver abscesses
  • Kidney problems

The most effective way to prevent these health conditions is to maintain a proper oral hygiene regime which includes regular gum and teeth cleaning. Additionally, take your pet for regular oral exams.


How does pet insurance help protect your pet's dental health?

Most pet insurance plans do not cover dental cleaning and care, but some will offer cover for dental accident and illness. Depending on the insurance provider, this may be included as standard, or it may be a paid for extra.

Your pet's dental health is crucial for their overall wellbeing therefore having dental treatment included in your cover is a serious consideration.


Final words

To avoid any health issue as best you can, you must pay attention to your pet's dental hygiene. Good oral hygiene starts with the right food and regular brushing. Provide a well-balanced and healthy diet to your pets and give them recommended chew treats for teeth exercise. Make it a habit to brush your pet's teeth every day.

It's not an easy task, especially at first, but you will find its worth the time and effort when your pet has better dental and overall health. Home dental care is crucial for better dental hygiene, but don't forget to take your pet to the vet for regular check-ups and treatments at least once a year.