Let’s talk about teeth!

This is such an important topic.

Did you know that by the age of 2 years old, approximately 80% of dogs show signs of dental disease? And cats don’t fare any better.

Isn’t that shocking?

And then again, how many of us- hand on heart- take regular good care of our dogs and cats’ teeth?

How many of us even know what to do?

Or check if what we’re doing works?

We wouldn’t dream of not taking care of our own teeth, but when it comes to our pets, it’s so easy to feel out of our depth and deeply unsure.

Maybe we considered toothbrushing, but that never really worked out. We’re not sure what else to do, so we end up giving a daily dentastix and hope for the best.

And panic if, during a check up with the vet, we’re told they need a dental.

That means a general anaesthetic and all the worries that brings with it, leaving the pet in the clinic, and a fairly hefty bill.

So what are some things we can do?

By far the best way to keep teeth clean, in my opinion, is by feeding raw meaty bones.

Not only does the chewing act as a natural toothbrush, it also strengthens the jaw muscles and allows plenty of blood to flow to the gums. This brings nutrients with it and helps to flush away any waste products- leading to stronger, healthier gums and the mouth as a whole.

And of course cats and dogs LOVE it!

Just seeing their joy, and the dedication, makes it completely worthwhile to me, even without the teeth cleaning action.

As an extra bonus, it satisfies their need to chew and releases feel good hormones. They’ll most likely sleep really well after a good chewing session.

Here’s my Filou in action. Happy days!

**Be safe when feeding bones. NEVER feed cooked bones, and always supervise. If you and your pets are new to feeding bones, make sure to educate yourself first on safely feeding them. There is plenty of information online, and our local raw food pet shops are always on hand to help.**

Feeding a diet that’s low in carbs and processed ingredients can help to prevent tooth decay. Raw feeding is great for this (but may not be enough on it’s own).

Brushing teeth, of course, is great, and does really help to keep teeth clean. Unfortunately many pets won’t comply, and it can be difficult to get to the back teeth effectively. Having said that, some pets really enjoy it, and it can be a lovely bonding time for the two of you.

Dental supplements can really help to keep teeth clean, too. These are most efficient when you start with teeth that are already in good condition- in young animals or after a dental. They soften the plaque and make it easier to brush or wipe off.

There are plenty of different products out there. We stock Nutraplaque, which has added green tea extract. It’s a great quality product, and I also like that it’s being produced here in the UK, and it comes in recyclable cardboard packaging.

Now to talk about that dreaded time when your cat or dog does need a dental as recommended by your vet.

I’ve been said vet, who made that recommendation, many, many, many times, and I know how often it meets with huge fear.

So why are dentals important?

First of all, tooth decay and inflammation of the gums is painful.

Next, the plaque and tartar on our pets’ teeth harbour millions of bacteria. They can then also enter the blood stream, leading to infection elsewhere in the body, for example the liver, kidneys and the heart. That can’t be good!

  • ‘But it’s not painful’, I hear you say, ‘He’s not crying.’

This is a huge problem. Cats and dogs don’t cry when they have tooth pain. They usually don’t show any signs of pain at all. Occasionally they look a bit ‘funny’ when they eat, as they’re throwing the food around a bit, trying to avoid the painful areas.

The biggest change we often see is afterwards.

I can’t tell you how often people have told me, that their cat or dog is acting years younger after the dental.

They were in pain, and just got on with it (as they do)- and nobody noticed until the pain was gone!

The next concern I hear a lot is:

  • ‘She’s too old for the anaesthetic.’

Yes, I understand completely, an anaesthetic IS always a worry. You have to sign a form that says your pet might die, and then you hand them over to the team and have no control over what happens next, until you get the phone call to pick them up.

That’s really scary.

Let’s put it into some perspective though:

The risk of death under anaesthetic is actually very low, even in older pets.

There will be a team of experienced vets and nurses on hand, and your pet will be monitored constantly.

To make it even safer, you can (and I highly recommend it) have a blood test done before the anaesthetic, which would flag up any additional risk factors. That way the team can take this into consideration, plan the procedure accordingly, and make it as safe as possible.

Health care has moved on a lot in the last 20 years. We have so much more knowledge on how to keep our patients safe, and better painkillers, too.

And you could make them hugely more comfortable, take away a lot of pain and potentially add years to their life.

You have so much to gain!

  • I’d rather go with ultrasonic teeth cleaning at my groomers

This can be a good option in some cases. As long as you have a diligent groomer who knows when to refer to a vet.

The main problem with ultrasonic teeth cleaning is, that (without an anaesthetic), you can’t clean the area just below the gum line- and this is where most of the bacteria sit.

So the teeth may look clean, but the infection is still there, and the most important area hasn’t been addressed.

If there is inflammation or tooth decay, the procedure can also be quite painful.

Many pets won’t allow a thorough ultrasonic tooth cleaning.

So this can be good for maintenance and minor plaque build up, but isn’t recommended for anything more than that.

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If you’re not sure about your pets’ teeth and if they need a dental, let us know! Book an appointment with us, and we can check them over and talk it all through with you.

We always take plenty of time to chat about pros, cons and alternatives, and any worries you may have.

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This is a question people ask me all the time:

What can WE do, when our pets need a dental?

How can we help to make the anaesthetic safer, and how can we help them to recover afterwards?

It’s difficult enough to entrust our beloved pets to the vet team for their dental, no matter how much trust we have in them.

It’s natural to feel worried.

We want to do whatever we can to help make it easier and safer for our furry friends- and there are plenty of things we can do:

Supplements

Give them a good quality Milk Thistle supplement for around a week before and after the procedure.

This supports the liver and kidney while they’re metabolising the general anaesthetic, and helps pets to recover more quickly.

We stock Nutramed.

It’s an easy to give, high quality product, and it also contains Boswellia and Pine Bark, both of which help with inflammation.

Food

Feed them a light, easy to digest diet after the anaesthetic.

They can recover faster if the digestive system isn’t bogged down with having to digest a heavy meal.

Their mouth may be a bit sore, so make the meal soft, tasty and easy to chew or lap.

Cooked chicken or white fish is great, on their own for cats, and mixed with some sweet potato for dogs.

Many pets prefer to have this slightly warmed and mashed up or even liquidised.

Warmth

Pets can’t regulate their temperature well after an anaesthetic and can easily get cold- especially older, frail and thin pets.

Wrap them up in a blanket, maybe turn up the heating or put the fire on, and of course lots of snuggles in your lap.

Which supplements to pause

Some supplements shouldn’t be used around the time of surgery, because they can interfere with the body’s blood clotting ability.

So they could lead to more bleeding, which could slow the healing process down.

If any teeth need to be removed during the dental, this would be classed as surgery and there can be bleeding.

Supplements to avoid around any surgery time are:

High doses of Fish Oil

Ginger, Garlic, Ginseng and Ginkgo

In most cases it’s best to stop these around 1 week before the surgery and to restart 1 week after, but ask your vet if you’re not sure.

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It’s usually no more than a couple of days at the most, and your pet should be back to their normal self- and possibly be much, much happier than before!