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Dental care for cats and dogs

by VitaPaws

For us humans, positive habits that pertain to looking after our teeth are a fundamental part of maintaining a good overall state of health. Daily brushing and trips to the dentist for a check-up are a matter of course, and we may even take cosmetic steps, such as whitening, to brighten up our smile. However, although any responsible cat or dog owner will invariably pay at least some attention to the dental health of their pet, the condition of the mouth often takes a back seat to some of the other areas that require regular management. The mouth of a cat or dog provides a breeding ground for bacteria, and if plaque is allowed to build up on and around the pet's teeth, the microorganisms that inhabit the mouth produce substances that irritate and damage the gums, eventually leading to gum disease. The progression of gum disease occurs in stages, and is reversible if spotted early enough.


Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. It refers to inflammation of the gums, and the most obvious sign of gingivitis is a thin red line between the gums and teeth. The condition can also give rise to bleeding gums and bad breath.


If left to progress, gingivitis can result in an irreversible condition, known as periodontitis. This type of gum disease is characterised by damage to the entire surface of the tooth, and a visibly receding gum line. If the connective tissues that hold the teeth in place become affected, a tooth extraction might even be required. In severe cases, complications can occur, and if the bacteria that cause periodontitis enter the bloodstream, the condition can spread to other organs in the pet's body.

How to spot gum disease in your pet

If you can manage to spot the early signs, adopting a proactive attitude towards the dental health of your pet can stop gum disease from progressing any further. Common indicators that can serve as a warning that your cat or dog has early stage gum disease include bad breath, inflamed gums, a build-up of tartar on the teeth and changes in appetite or eating behaviours.

Preventing gum disease

Gum disease is one of the most common problems that affects a pet's mouth, and it has been estimated that as many as 80% of dogs will suffer to some degree. However, with regular maintenance, gum disease, like many other conditions that commonly affect the teeth of cats and dogs, can be prevented. The brushing of a pet's teeth should start from the time they are a puppy or a kitten. Beginning the routine early on in their life will help them get used to it, and they are more likely to be cooperative with tooth-brushing as an adult animal. Your vet will be able to recommend a suitable type of toothpaste, and provide you with advice on how to best brush your pet's teeth. The food you give your pet can also have an influence on their risk of developing gum disease. Specialist foods and treats have been developed that account for the fact that processed pet food often doesn't contain the dental-protective factors that would have been present in the foods eaten by your pet's wild ancestors. If you're unsure about what to feed your companion animal, seek the guidance of a vet or pet nutritionist. There are a variety of specialist toys available on the market designed to promote the dental health of your pet. Chewing and gnawing on these items helps to break down and remove plaque, helping to keep the teeth clean. Some of these toys allow for an appropriate type of toothpaste to be hidden inside for added protection against damage and decay.


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