At Doon Animal Hospital, we recognize that dental care is one of the most important aspects of your pet’s health. Cats and dogs instinctively hide oral pain though, so we can’t rely on them to tell us that their mouth hurts. We often see dogs with broken teeth and/or advanced periodontal disease, yet, they are eating just fine; they tend to just chew on the side which hurts the least or they swallow the kibbles whole. They feel pain just like you and I do; however, they just are good at hiding it.
Brushing their teeth is the single best thing you can do, but it has to be at least every other day, if not every day, in order to really make a difference. In order to be successful, the brushing needs to be done in a thorough manner over several minutes – just like with our teeth. Success starts with having a toothpaste which is liked enough by your pet that they think you are just smearing treats all over their mouth. If he or she doesn’t like the toothpaste flavour, you are sunk! Once you have a toothpaste that they like, just play with it on your finger for a few days, maybe even a week or two, before you even try brushing. Baby steps!
I really like dental diets; however, there just aren’t many on the market. We sell Royal Canin and Hill’s Dental Diets at Doon Animal Hospital. We probably sell those diets more than anything else at our vet hospital! These are oversized kibbles which encourages chewing and they are abrasive to really brush with every bite!
Brushing and dental diets are really your only tools for cat dental health. For dogs, we can also use water additives, but I’m afraid adding something to the water would discourage a cat from drinking their water and cause urinary problems, so I feel water additives are only for dogs.
Also, dogs are great chewers, so dental chews like Virbac CET Hextra chews are effective and safe. So often we see broken teeth due to inappropriate chews which are too hard; it is really a shame. Usually, it is a bone, an antler or a hard plastic toy that the owner lovingly bought which broke their dog’s tooth. Do a “whack test” – hit the item on your kneecap, if it hurts then it is too hard!!! Kong toys are fantastic alternatives.
All of these methods of oral care that you can do at home can really only do so much though, which is why we frequently do dental cleanings at Doon Animal Hospital. Yes, this has to be done under anesthetic; but, we have highly trained and experienced registered veterinary technicians monitoring the anesthetic. While under, we can take x-rays as needed and thoroughly examine the teeth. We do far too many dental procedures that involve pulling many teeth. If these patients had dental cleanings done earlier in life, they could have kept more of their teeth. BTW, they don’t need their teeth so much as they need to have a life free of pain!
Anesthetic free dentistry is a waste of time and money to put it bluntly. It cannot clean under the gumline where the disease is, only the crowns of the teeth can possibly get cleaned that way and that is NOT where the problems live. It gives dog and cat owners a false sense of security that their pet’s health is being looked after but it is not. Anesthetic free dentistry is actually practicing veterinary medicine without a license!