Health & Nutrition | Dogs | Cats | February 1, 2016

Why Oral Health is Important for Pets

Girl brushing dog's teeth

Many pet owners don’t realize the importance of oral health for their pet’s overall well-being. A healthy set of choppers and gums enables your pet to grind up his food with ease. This aids digestion by allowing the enzymes in the stomach to do their job.

Just as with humans, poor oral hygiene can result in a myriad of problems for your pet, including:

  • Stinky breath
  • Plaque
  • Tartar
  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Abscesses

These can cause serious and very painful problems for your pet, and in extreme cases bacterial infections in the gums can even cause organ damage to the heart, liver and kidneys, sometimes with irreversible consequences. Don’t let your pet’s teeth and gums get to this point.

Sometimes the signs of oral problems are not very obvious. If you suspect your pup or kitty may be having pain or discomfort, check to see if they are chewing on one side of their mouth, exhibiting a preference for soft food, or avoiding chewing on harder objects. These are signs that a trip to your veterinarian is in order to find out where the problem lies.

Small dogs and most cats are more prone to dental issues, but all pets can benefit from the proverbial ‘ounce of prevention’ to ensure their health and ultimately their comfort. At an early age, you should acclimatize your pet to having his/her mouth opened and inspected regularly, and they should also be taught to tolerate the sensation of a toothbrush in their mouths as well. Using praise and other positive reinforcements at an early age will save you much aggravation later on, so do invest the time to teach your pet.

Toothbrushes come in several forms. Apart from the traditional model we all know, there is also a finger toothbrush which fits over the end of your finger and is often easier to manoeuvre in your pet’s mouth than a regular type brush. You can even use a gauze sponge over your finger or a very soft-bristled baby toothbrush. Pet toothpaste also comes in a variety of flavours for your pet’s enjoyment. Do not use human toothpaste as most human toothpastes have ingredients which are either unnecessary to your pet or can cause them harm. You should ask your veterinarian how to best clean your pet’s teeth.

There are a number of chews and toys on the market which encourage crunching and chewing and these will help improve dental health as well. Many of these are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Even with the most diligent teeth brushing by you, dental cleanings by your veterinarian will be necessary periodically to maintain those pearly whites in the best possible shape. Your pet will enjoy better health and you will enjoy the sweeter breath that comes with a clean set of teeth and healthy gums! Smile!