Vet advice: How to brush your pet’s teeth every day
Cats and dogs require daily teeth cleaning, yet too many of us entirely neglect this aspect of pet care.
One in four Australian pet owners cite lack of knowledge for failing to clean their furry friends' teeth, according to research by Purina Dentalife.
This lack of cleaning leads to 80 per cent of dogs and cats developing dental disease from the age of three.
Veterinarian and dental registrar Dr Kirsten Hailstone says while brushing daily is the best defence against dental issues, not all pets will allow this.
"Dental disease is an inflammatory reaction to plaque that causes swollen, sore and bleeding gums," Dr Hailstone says.
"As with our own dental health, brushing will always be the gold standard - it's as simple as using a microfibre towel and pet toothpaste. However, not all pets are going to allow this and not all owners can manage to brush their pet's teeth daily.
"A win-win method is using daily dental treats that (have) been designed to clean your pets' teeth while they chew."
She says while bones have long been considered the go-to for cleaning teeth, they may actually cause more damage.
"A study with African wild dogs showed that despite a wild diet, they had the same percentage of periodontal disease as domestic dogs," Dr Hailstone says. "Bones just damage teeth; they do not help resolve periodontal disease.
"Dental treats are formulated to wrap around teeth, allowing the chewing teeth at the back of the mouth to penetrate into the treat and disturb the plaque, reducing the progression of periodontal disease by removing the source.
"Some dental treats also use additives to reduce plaque adhesion and decrease calculus formation."
Dr Hailstone says the best treatment plans includes multiple approaches.
"Given the incidence of periodontal disease, we now recommend that all pets have a thorough oral investigation of their oral cavity under anaesthetic by the age of three," she said.
"This allows your vet to predict the future needs of your pet's oral health care. Multimodal oral care is the best plan, which involves using a combination of brushing your pet's teeth using oral gels, which decrease plaque attachment, and oral treats, to help remove plaque from the more difficult-to-reach back teeth.
"All of these actions work together to minimise the need for professional intervention."
Australian Veterinary Dental Society president Dr Rebecca Nilsen says dental disease causes not only bad breath, but can lead to infection, pain and serious illness.
As with humans, if symptoms are left untreated, bacteria from infected gums can enter the bloodstream and lead to life-threatening disease.
Originally published as Vet advice: How to brush your pet's teeth every day