Dental hygiene is a fundamental part of our dog’s or cat’s care. Good cleaning is not only about having clean and shiny teeth, it goes far beyond aesthetics, being a question of health.
Dental disease begins with the accumulation of plaque. This is inevitable, and can happen more quickly if they eat wet food, which adheres more easily. This plaque, which is initially transparent and viscous, can be easily cleaned, but if this is not done, it becomes yellowish and hard, giving rise to tartar, which is more difficult to remove.
This accumulation of dirt can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and can damage the structures that support the tooth, causing tooth loss. Bacteria present in the teeth cause bad breath and can cause further damage, often entering the systemic circulation and potentially reaching vital organs such as the liver, kidneys or heart (bacterial endocarditis).
There are breeds that are clearly prone to dental problems, with small or mini breeds being the most prone to this problem. This is because the oral cavity is so small that there is often not enough space and the teeth appear poorly aligned or even overlapping, making them more prone to tartar build-up. In these cases it is important to take extreme care, being often necessary to clean the teeth in the clinic under sedation, as well as in elderly animals. With the animal anaesthetised, the teeth are carefully and thoroughly cleaned, removing stains and dirt, and in more advanced cases, it is sometimes necessary to remove the damaged teeth.
Cats are also very prone to dental problems, with dental disease being the most common pathology in domestic cats.
Tips for proper cleaning
As we said, it is not always easy to brush properly, as most of them do not allow themselves to do so. For this reason, it is important to get them used to handling their mouth and allowing themselves to be cleaned from the time they are puppies.
There are brushes on the market that fit like a thimble on our finger, facilitating the process. Obviously we must use specific toothpastes for them. In any case, there are products on sale that in many cases do not require brushing, gels that are applied to the teeth or gums, which are released progressively, so that it is often not necessary to do it every day. Also in spray format or even to add to drinking water and powders (PlaqueOff) to mix with food.
It is very beneficial to give them toys or chewy snacks that help to clean the teeth. They are not a substitute for proper dental cleaning, but they are effective in removing food debris and stimulate saliva production, which also has a cleaning action. Combining both, there are specific toys on sale that have bristles, in some cases you can even add toothpaste, so that by chewing and playing, they carry out the process themselves.
An annual check-up with the vet is recommended, in which the teeth, among other things, are usually checked.
Warning signs to go to the vet for an extra dental check-up would be:
Red and swollen gums
yellow or brown deposits on the teeth
Abscesses: Sometimes infections in the mouth can form abscesses that can be seen under the eye or in the neck.
A tooth moves or even falls out.
Difficulty eating: if you show pain when chewing or even refuse food. If the infection is advanced, chewing can be very painful.
Now that you know a little more about your furry friend’s oral health, check his or her mouth to make sure everything is in order and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to visit your vet!