Wikivet blog: oral hygiene – the key to a healthy mouth in pets

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It’s well known that regular home care of pets’ teeth is the only way to ensure optimal dental health, but it’s also well known that most owners find this challenging. Dental experts have identified that there are two methods of home care, depending on an owner’s ability to get involved: active and passive.

Brushing your pet’s teeth

a) Active home care is “hands-on” where the pet owner is physically involved with removing plaque and maintaining oral hygiene. Tooth brushing and applying anti-plaque agents directly into the mouth fit into this category. Active home care is the ideal answer, but it isn’t always easy. It’s known as the “gold standard” of preventive dental care.

Clara, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, is a ten year old dog who is an ambassador for active home dental care. Her owner started to brush Clara’s teeth when she was a pup, and has built tooth-brushing into her daily routine. Clara knows that before she can tuck into her dinner, she has to sit still for a 30 seconds while her owner whizzes around her mouth with a toothbrush and some chicken-flavoured toothpaste. The results of this daily routine are astonishing. Most ten year old dogs have advanced dental disease, with gingivitis, accumulations of tartar and missing teeth. Clara, in contrast, has teeth that are as healthy as a two year old’s. Clara provides a good example of the power of active owner dental care.

“Letting your pet clean their own teeth”

b) Passive homecare refers to aspects of an oral hygiene program that help to reduce plaque in the mouth, but do not require the owner to get involved with the hands-on tooth-brushing or mouth-handling. Examples of passive home care include giving a special type of diet that helps to keep the teeth clean, or offering a dental chew to help reduce plaque accumulation.

Jake is a ten year old terrier who has been given a daily dental chew for the past five years. His owner originally tried to brush his teeth, but he wouldn’t let her. Many owners have this experience, and this has created a niche in the market that has been occupied by a wide range of commercial products. Jake’s owner discovered that he loved the taste and texture of a dental chew, designed to be given once daily. Jake gets this every evening, as a treat before bed. His owner has reduced his daily food ration to take account of the calories in the dental chew, and he’s stayed at his ideal weight. Jake did originally need a dental clean up and polish, to remove the build up of tartar that had occurred before he started his dental chews. But the daily chew regime has worked wonders for his back teeth (the molars), and they’re as clean as Clara’s. The front teeth (canines) have accumulated some tartar (Jake doesn’t use these when chewing), but the problem is a minor one that doesn’t need any intervention at this stage.

Home dental care is an important part of a pet’s daily routine, whether you choose an active or passive approach. To find out more, read the Wikivet section on dental hygiene, by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “Wikivet blog: oral hygiene – the key to a healthy mouth in pets

  1. While the header says “pets” you only refer to canine dental care and cats of course are more frequently kept as pets (although they probably don’t have the same image as their canine “compatriots”). Our vet in NZ in the 1980s, after our previous cats had had dental problems partly caused by their diet) recommended feeding our new cats raw chicken necks to help keep their teeth in good condition and our two cats at that time lived into their mid-teens. Our current two, now 19 (a Korat spay) and 11 (ginger Abyssinian) have also had chicken necks for all their time for the last 16 years (all their life for the Aby) and have pretty good teeth. I say “pretty good” because while the Korat chews her necks properly and has lovely clean white teeth, her “brother” is inclined to wolf his down with minimal swallowing.

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