Dental hygiene for pets

Your cat or dog's dental hygiene is crucial to their help - that includes both their teeth and gums.
Written by Mayhew team
Updated 3 years ago

What is good dental hygiene?

Good dental hygiene is ensuring that your pet’s teeth and gums are kept clean and healthy. Owners should be regularly checking their pet’s teeth and incorporating oral care into their pet’s daily routines. It is also worth asking your veterinary surgeon to check your pet’s teeth when you take them for an annual check-up or booster so that they can offer advice on any signs of bad dental health.

Are there medical issues associated with poor dental health?

If a cat or dog’s teeth and gums are not kept clean, this can create health problems:

  • Plaque will build up and lead to sore gums and teeth.
  • Teeth can become decayed and infected.
  • Mouth infections may make it too painful to eat or cause the animal to feel generally unwell and so have a reduced appetite. If left too long unchecked, veterinary intervention may be needed to clean your pet’s teeth and they may even need surgery to remove any teeth that cannot be saved.

What is the best way to clean my pet’s teeth?

Brushing your pet’s teeth regularly is the best way to keep them clean at home. Toothpaste for humans is toxic to animals, so always use a pet-friendly formula. These come in many flavours – test out a few and see which one your pet prefers.

We recommend using a toothbrush or a finger brush designed specifically for pets; however, a child’s toothbrush is a good substitute. Introduce teeth brushing slowly and gently to give your pet time to get used to the sensation. It can be a good idea to brush their teeth before taking them for a walk or giving them their dinner so they learn to associate teeth brushing with a positive experience or treat!

What are your top tips for sparkling teeth and healthy gums?

Daily brushing is considered best; however, all pets are different. We would advise that you brush your pet’s teeth as often as you can without making them too stressed. Feed your pet a diet that involves dry food as biscuits are good for removing plaque from teeth. There are complete dental dry diets available for both dogs and cats, which have been formulated so that the biscuits are large enough to ensure your pet chews (rather than just swallows) the kibble. The chewing action helps to keep teeth clean.

If you prefer to keep to your pet’s normal diet, you can incorporate dental chews/treats instead to achieve the same effect. However, these are normally highly calorific so should not be given daily. Chewing toys and balls can also be helpful. We advise giving your dog rubber toys and balls as these will not cause uneven wear or damage to their teeth.

What should be avoided?

Feeding a wet food-only diet. Incorporating dry food will help to prevent plaque build-up. If your pet is new to dry food, mix with some wet food initially so they get used to it. Feeding your pet bones, as they can cause damage to teeth.

Toys with broken or sharp edges which could damage teeth and gums. Check all toys are in good order and be mindful of what you give your pet to play with. Hard toys such as antler chews, which can cause dogs’ teeth to splinter or break. Giving dogs toys which are too big or small for their mouths. It may go without saying but don’t allow dogs to chew on or carry rocks in their mouths, as this will cause damage to their teeth and gums.

Dental issues can be difficult to avoid and, just like us, most pets normally need veterinary dental intervention at some point during their life. However, good dental care at home and following advice from your veterinary practice can help delay or reduce the likelihood of your pet requiring dental work under anaesthetic.

What are Mayhew’s Nurse Clinics?

We offer a variety of Nurse Clinics, where our qualified veterinary nurses are on hand to support you in keeping your pet healthy. In a dental-check clinic, a nurse will demonstrate how to brush your pet’s teeth, as well as offer advice and guidance on the right diet, the best chews and any other queries you may have about at-home dental care.

It is important to remember that veterinary nurses cannot diagnose dental disease. You should make an appointment with your veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your pet’s dental health.

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