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National Pet Dental Health Month

National Pet Dental Health Month

February was National Pet Dental Health Month, and although we may be a bit late this year, we still want to bring you our tops tips for dental health as well as discuss chewing and why it is important for both dogs and cats.

Dental health is of vital importance, especially as it can lead to a whole host of other health issues such as internal bacterial infections and inflammation of major organs such as the kidney and liver1,2. Damaged teeth can also cause discomfort, limiting your pet's ability to eat or chew. The best course of action is to be proactive and prevent any issues from occurring. Following our top tips (see left), can help towards better dental health for your pet.

A reoccurring theme when reading any article on dental care is chewing. Providing your dog or cat with the ability to chew is of vital importance. As well as providing your pet with the physical activity of chewing, saliva production, which is stimulated by chewing, has been linked to improved dental health.

Chewing aids are available in many forms, but more so for dogs. Some options for your dog include:

  • Larger sized kibble
  • Raw bones
  • Deer antlers
  • Fish skins
  • Meaty chews
  • Specifically designed dental chews

It is simply a matter of finding what your dog enjoys the most, and which method or combined methods are most effective.

Encouraging your cat to chew is more challenging. Unfortunately, there are fewer products available on the market, but with some imagination, you can still provide your cat with options to chew. This can be done through feeding a larger or irregular sized dry kibble, certain smaller raw bones such as chicken wings, and even fish skin based treats (if your cat enjoys them).

Please note that if feeding your cat a dry food, it is highly recommended to feed a high-quality wet food alongside to maintain optimal kidney health and hydration.

Studies show that the effectiveness of chewing is a result of the combination of the abrasive texture and the production of saliva3. Saliva contains anti-bacterial elements such as leukocytes (white blood cells) that help discourage the growth of plaque within in the mouth4. As your pet chews, more saliva will be produced, increasing the effectiveness in preventing the build-up of bacteria.

Even if you are unable to brush your pet's teeth regularly, providing your pet with options to chew can still have a positive impact on their dental health5.

While chewing has many positives, it is also important to be aware of any risks. First, be sure to regularly check your pet's teeth for damage or wear and tear that could be caused by overzealous or destructive chewing. If your pet is more interested in trying to break the chew than actually chewing it, we advice removing the chew immediately to minimise any risk of cracked or damaged teeth. Molars and premolars, which are the teeth located nearest the back of your pet's jaw, are at most risk.

When feeding raw bones, avoid weight bearing bones such as knuckles and large leg bones. These bones are denser and therefore harder to chew. Instead, offer ribs, wings, necks and other similar bones as these are softer and less likely to cause damage. Never offer cooked bones as these can splinter when chewed and are potentially very dangerous.

Be sure to feed size appropriate chews and especially with chews such as antlers, dispose of them once they become small enough to swallow. We always recommend monitoring your pet when chewing and to never leave them unsupervised.

Following these guidelines can help to ensure your pet enjoys all the benefits of chewing at the lowest possible risk.

"Providing your dog or cat with the ability to chew is of vital importance. As well as providing your pet with the physical activity of chewing, saliva production, which is stimulated by chewing, has been linked to improved dental health."

Fact File

1) Regularly brushing your pet's teeth is the most effective way to maintain good dental health.

2) Be sure to use a pet-friendly toothpaste and never use any tooth product containing xylitol, as this is toxic to dogs and cats.

3) Providing your pet with treats and toys that promote chewing can help further maintain dental health.

4) Specifically designed dental chews are readily available, however not all dental chews are equal.  Be sure to check the ingredients before feeding to your pet, and avoid dental chews containing low-quality ingredients or added sugar or salt.

5) Dental supplements are also available in the form of liquids, gels, and powders.  All have different ingredients and properties so always do your research before using a particular product.

6) Regular vet check-ups will help ensure your pet's teeth are healthy and will catch any issues early.  This is especially important for senior pets and breeds that are susceptible to dental disease. 

References

1) Rawlinson, J., Goldstein, R., Reiter, A., Attwater, D. and Harvey, C. (2011). Association of periodontal disease with systemic health indices in dogs and the systemic response to treatment of periodontal disease. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 238(5), pp.601-609.

2) Kyllar, M. and Witter, K. (2018). Prevalence of dental disorders in pet dogs. Veterinární Medicína, 50(No. 11), pp.496-505.

3) Logan, E. (2006). Dietary Influences on Periodontal Health in Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 36(6), pp.1385-1401.

4) Hart, B. and Powell, K. (1990). Antibacterial Properties of Saliva: Role in Maternal Periparturient Grooming and in Licking Wounds. Physiology & Behaviour, 48, pp.383 - 386.

5) Bjone, S., Brown, W., Billingham, J.D., & Harris, A. (2010). Influence of Chewing on Dental Health in Dogs.