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PET CARE Taking care of your pet’s teeth

Keep your pet smiling

Ask the vet
Ester Van Luipen

Out of all your family members who do you think has the worst dental hygiene: Exactly! It is the dog! Dogs don’t brush their teeth, nor do they floss. Ever. If you are ever curious as to what happens if teeth go for years without brushing (or you want to show your children what will become of their teeth should they fail to brush regularly), just look at your pet’s teeth and smell your pet’s breath.

Four out of five
Scientific research has shown that 80 per cent of pets have periodontal disease by the age of three years. This should not be surprising, since there is little difference physically between the dog or cat’s tooth and the human tooth. The problem begins when plaque and calculus are allowed to build up on a pet’s teeth, especially below the gumline. Bad breath, bleeding and inflammation of the gums, receding gums, loosening and the eventual loss of teeth are all the result of poor dental hygiene. Worse still, the bacteria of the mouth can seed other areas in the body leading to infection in the heart, liver, kidney or virtually anywhere the bloodstream carries them.
Gingivitis is reversible. However, bone loss and tooth loss, once it starts, is not reversible, so it is very important to keep the teeth clean.

What to do
I recommend that you regularly brush your pets teeth with an enzymatic toothpaste especially formulated for animals.
Diet is a major factor in the development of plaque and tartar. Soft or sticky foods, like scraps or tin food should therefore be avoided, while certain chewing toys, like raw hide and pigs ears are beneficial. A specially formulated diet with dental benefits is available for dogs and cats.
If your pet has gum disease already it is important to have your vet do a dental cleaning first, because tartar can’t be simply brushed off the teeth. In order to do a dental cleaning your vet has to put your pet under anaesthetic – you can’t ask a pet to open their mouths and sit still for a while. The dental session itself is similar to a human dental cleaning, involving tartar removal; checking for cavities, gingival (gum) pockets, loose teeth and any growths on the gums or palate; and the removal of diseased teeth.

These few simple steps will ensure that your pet’s teeth – and breath – are as good as they could be. Definitely something to smile about.

Esther van Luipen is a veterinary surgeon in Claremorris Small Animal Practice. Feel free to contact her with any of your small-animal concerns on 094 9373955 or at