Dental Best Practice- Information for Responsible Pet Owners
Keeping your pet in tip-top shape is a joint effort between you – his main carer at home – and us. And teeth are no exception: for your pet’s teeth to be kept in an ideal condition we both need to put the time and effort into ensuring they get exactly what they need to be healthy.
Caring for Your Dog’s Dental Health at Home
The first part of a dental care routine at home is just getting used to what your pet’s mouth looks and smells like. After all, you won’t notice a missing tooth or broken fang if you don’t know what your pet’s mouth is supposed to look like. And a change in smell can be an early sign of something amiss. It’s also important to get your pet used to having his or her mouth looked at and see that it’s not something to be afraid of. Gentle handling with lots of treats is essential; starting small and working up to fully opening the mouth over several weeks can be helpful for some animals that are unsure. Remember, you need to work with your animal, so if they show signs of resisting you, being overly worried about the process, or you suspect they may bite, talk to us for advice.
Next, it’s a good idea to think about an oral health care plan at home. The best way to care for your pet’s teeth at home is brushing. Ideally, you should aim to brush twice daily, although we know life gets busy – daily or every-other-day brushing will still help. Just like with looking in their mouth, the key to good toothbrushing is to build up to it slowly and to reward them for allowing it. Only special pet toothpaste should be used, as these have been designed to have less fluoride in. They’re also flavoured like fish, chicken or gravy in order to encourage pets to enjoy the process – cats particularly like the fish flavour! Our nurses can explain how to train your dog – or even your cat – to allow tooth brushing and give you some top tips on getting to those hard-to-reach areas.
If despite our best advice, your pet is not allowing tooth brushing, there are other things you can try. Dogs may find a dental chew helps, or a toothbrushing toy. Cats are generally fussier and don’t tend to chew much, but can be encouraged to lick enzymatic toothpaste or can be fed a special dental diet. There are even powders to add to their food and mouthwash to add to their drinking water. The only thing to watch out for is that there are lots of copycat products out there that have good marketing, but no studies or proof that they work. Don’t worry, though – our nursing team can help you find the ‘best practice’ solution for you and your pet that makes a difference.
What Our Team Can do to Help
Our superb nursing team run free dental clinics! Simply bring your pet in for a dental check-up and they’ll talk through your pet’s oral health and help you to come up with an oral health care plan for your pet. If our nurses are concerned that your pet may be suffering from dental disease, they can refer you onto a vet for further investigations.
Our nurses may also recommend that your pet has a ‘scale and polish’. Just like humans, dogs get tartar build-up, and removing this tartar is important for maintaining good dental health. This can happen even if you’re doing everything you can at home – after all, we humans brush twice daily and still miss spots!
What Happens if my Pet Needs a ‘Dental’?
If one of our nurses or vets thinks your pet needs a dental, they’ll first get you booked in. You’ll need a morning appointment to drop off your pet, and they’re not allowed treats or breakfast on the morning of the operation. We’ll ask you to sign a consent form, then leave your pet with us for the day.
Our nurses will get your pet’s weight and vitals recorded, then find them a comfy bed to wait for their turn. We’ll give them a sedative and place an intravenous cannula in their leg before administering the rest of the anaesthetic.
Once they’re asleep, our vets can conduct a full examination of the mouth, including probing beneath the gum line to look for hidden signs of disease. They’ll use an ultrasonic descaler to break up tartar and scrape away plaque, which makes the teeth white again – but more importantly, reduces the damaging bacteria in contact with your pet’s teeth. We may also take x-rays, which are important for telling us the health of the tooth roots. Using this information and the information from probing and exploring, the vet can decide whether any teeth need to be removed.
Once your pet’s dental is completed, they’ll be gently woken up from their anaesthetic. They’ll then be placed back into a warm bed to sleep off any remaining sedative effects. As they wake up, our nurses will give them a little food, and arrange for you to collect them later the same day.
Your pet will be a little sleepy at home on the first night. Depending on any extractions they’ve had, they may need to eat soft food for a few days. We’ll book you a post-op check to see the vet or nurse and make sure everything is healing properly.
If you’ve not been brushing your pet’s teeth at home, now’s the time to start. But before you do, why not pop in to see our nurses for a dental check over? They can help you decide which method to use and whether a descale and polish would be a good first step to getting your pet’s teeth back to tip-top form.