Should you be brushing and flossing your pet’s teeth… just as you would for yourself?
Well, perhaps dental floss is a bit much, but brushing is essential! So says Dr. Catherine Pelletier, veterinarian at Montréal Veterinary Hospital: “Brushing reduces the accumulation of tartar and plaque. If done three times a week, it can make a big difference. It goes a long way in terms of prevention.”
Ensuring good dental and oral hygiene for your pet can help them avoid any number of problems. To begin with, they’ll have better breath when they come up to you for some affection, but there’s so much more that this type of care can help with. Dr. Pelletier continues: “If the gums are irritated, they can bleed and become quite painful. Gradually the bone erodes and the roots are exposed. Your pet starts to feel even worse. They may end up with periodontal disease, and the teeth get loose.”
All these problems can be avoided with prevention. Brushing is one way… but not the only way. Nowadays, some food is specifically designed for this purpose. The food is dry and the way it’s made – its formulation and ingredients – all help to reduce tartar build up. All these properties are clearly marked on the packaging. Some brands are also approved by the Association des médecins vétérinaires dentistes. You’ll be able to buy some at your vet.
What should you be looking for?
Bad breath is immediately recognizable, but you should also be looking at the appearance of the teeth and gums. For example, if the teeth are yellow and the gums red, this indicates tartar accumulation. This is easier to see in dogs because their mouths and jaws are usually quite large, but cats are also at risk… perhaps even more so. Cats can suffer from injury resorption, and the only way to see it is with X-rays. And remember, even if your cat doesn’t “complain”, i.e., seem to be suffering, you should know that they are, indeed, in pain.
How to brush your pet’s teeth?
Next time you’re at your vet’s office, a technician will be happy to show you the best ways to brush your pet’s teeth and the right tools to use. In general, the kit will include a toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for animals. Brushes come in a variety of formats. Some even make it easy to use your fingers directly on the teeth. However, if using a brush seems impossible, you can use some antiseptic gel (chlorexidine based) and apply it directly to the teeth with a washcloth. And the toothpaste has special flavours just for animals, like tuna, beef, chicken, malt… and yes, mint!