Dental care for pets

Paws for advice

Dear Vets,

I recently bought a little Yorkshire Terrier puppy, Susi.

The breeder sent along a lot of good advice on how to care for her and said to pay particular attention to her teeth to keep her healthy. I have tried to brush them but she does not like it and my husband thinks I’m silly to even try, but I have heard that brushing is important – any tips?

Your breeder was right, dental care is very important, and the smaller breeds like your little Susi are especially prone to develop problems. Consider these facts:

1) More than 80 per cent of pets will have some sort of dental disease by the time they reach the age of three.

2) Dental disease is often hidden. Experts state that 28 per cent of dogs and 42 per cent of cats have disease hidden in the gumline or along the roots of the pet’s teeth.

3) Dental disease starts as an accumulation of bacteria, saliva, food particles, and immune cells. This mixture is known as plaque.

4) If plaque is not removed from the teeth by some sort of mechanical action, like brushing, it will mineralize and form calculus, better known as dental tartar.

5) Tartar protects bacteria that cause inflammation of the gumline (gingivitis) and can erode tissue supporting the teeth (periodontitis).

6) Since 60 per cent of the tooth is below the gumline, dental disease is often unseen on a routine exam.

7) Fractured teeth and infected tooth roots are common in dogs. Cats are prone to ‘cervical neck lesions’ – deep cavities at the base of the crown. All can be painful but many stoic pets won’t let on to their owners until disease is advanced and they have difficulty eating.

9) At home dental care of your pet’s teeth is vital.

Routine brushing and the use of barrier sealants after a dental cleaning at the veterinary hospital can help prevent the loss of your pet’s teeth.

To help you keep Susi’s smile looking great, go ahead and sink your teeth into these guidelines from the veterinarians at Cayman Animal Hospital :

Recommendations for home dental care:

The first step in achieving quality home care for your pet is to make the therapy a pleasant experience. If there is a battle surely you will lose.

Begin slowly!

Simply lift his or her lip and touch the teeth and gums for several days to familiarize your pet with having its mouth handled.

Next, progress to rubbing the teeth and gums with your finger. As your pet accepts your attention, wrap a small cloth or gauze around your finger and continue to rub teeth and gums.

Finally, use a soft toothbrush or finger brush and one of the many oral hygiene products developed for pets including flavourful pastes, gels and solutions.

Brushing four times a week is usually sufficient although with advanced periodontal disease brushing daily can make the difference between saving and losing teeth.

It helps to give abrasive dry foods. Especially effective is a prescription diet available from your veterinarian called T/D for Tartar Diet, made by the Hills Science Diet food company, which helps reduce plaque accumulation on the teeth.

The above care will greatly improve your pet’s dental health and lessen the frequency needed for professional dental prophylaxis. Good Luck with Susi!