Pet Smile Month: Advice for Cumbrian pet owners

September is Pet Smile Month, making it the perfect opportunity for pet owners to check their furry family members’ teeth and gums are in tip-top condition.  

PDSA Vet Nurse Nina Downing said: “Brushing our teeth is second nature to us, but it is just as important for our pets. Like us, they can suffer from tooth and gum disease, which can be painful and lead to other more serious conditions.

Why is it important to clean your pet’s teeth?

“Plaque is a build-up of saliva, bacteria, and food. It sticks to teeth and eventually hardens into a brown substance called tartar. If left untreated, tartar can damage teeth and cause inflamed gums – it might even be the reason your four-legged friend loses some of their teeth. As it is full of bacteria that can enter the blood, tartar can also cause problems in organs such as the kidneys, heart, and liver.

The importance of a good dental hygiene routine

“Good dental hygiene, such as a regular brushing routine, is essential to stop the build-up of tartar and keep our furry friends’ pearly whites clean. If you have never brushed your pet’s teeth before, it’s important to take things slowly and introduce them to the process step by step.

“You can buy special toothbrushes that are either long enough to reach the back teeth, or small enough for a tiny mouth, as well as toothpaste that is safe for pets to swallow.

“Begin by letting them have a taste of the toothpaste so they perceive it as a treat, rather than something to be afraid of. Once they are ready, it is important to help them feel comfortable having their mouths touched. You can do this by rubbing a soft cloth along their gums before moving on to a small brush that fits over your finger. When you think your pet is ready, you can introduce a toothbrush. Doing this daily is ideal as it becomes part of your pet’s routine, and, hopefully, they will begin to enjoy it.  

What else can you do?

“Whilst brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to keep them squeaky clean, there are other things you can do between brushes to help maintain a healthy smile. There are toys that are specifically designed to clean dogs’ teeth as they chew. Dental chews work in a similar way, however it’s important not to offer your furry friend too many of these, as it could make them overweight. Feeding them less sugary treats is also ideal as it can help slow the build-up of bacteria that leads to tartar. You could also consider feeding your cat a special dental diet, such as a mixture of wet and dry food, as the chewing required to eat the dry biscuits will help remove some of the plaque that builds up throughout the day.

Signs of dental disease

“Unfortunately, brushing alone isn’t always going to protect our furry family members against all dental problems. However, the routine can help you spot signs of problems sooner as well as making it easier for your vet to take a look in your pet’s mouth as they should already feel comfortable being examined there.

“Common signs to look out for include bad breath (not just after eating), not wanting to eat or having difficulty eating, weight loss or excessive drooling. If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to take your pet for a check-up with their vet – not only to diagnose and treat possible dental disease, but also to rule out any other more serious illnesses.”

PDSA is the UK’s largest vet charity providing a vital service for pets across the UK whose owners struggle to afford treatment costs for their sick and injured pets.

For many vulnerable pets, PDSA is there to help when there is nowhere else for their owners to turn.

Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information. www.pdsa.org.uk



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