My Top Five Dental Products and Tips On How To Use Them!
Dental disease is depressingly common in our pets, over a third will have some issues by the time they are just three years old. Carrying out some sort of dental care at home is vital but the range of products available can be confusing and you have to use them properly for them to be effective!
Here is my YouTube video on this subject, in case you would rather watch than read!
Here are my my favourite products and my tips on how to use them!
- Brushes, Toothpaste and Finger-Brushes
Brushing is by far the best way to keep teeth clean. This is why we brush our teeth and don’t use chews or biscuits! (Shame!) However, it is also the most labour intensive way of caring for teeth and it can be a challenge to persuade your pets to let you anywhere near them.
For starters, you need a pet toothpaste. Not only are human ones irritating to their stomachs because of the foaming agents and fluoride, our pets aren’t that keen on minty flavours! Animal toothpastes are generally something they would enjoy, often chicken or fish, which makes them really palatable.
You should also ensure you use an ‘enzymatic toothpaste’. These are kind of like a cross between a mouthwash and a toothpaste. Although most of the work is done by brushing, the enzymes in the better quality pet toothpastes are active on their own and will break down the plaque and bacteria just by being in contact with them.
A good tip is on the days you don’t brush your pet’s teeth, give them the toothpaste as a little treat and as it swills around their mouths, it will help to clean them (but not very much, so don’t just rely on this, you need to put some elbow grease in as well!)
Ideally we would all brush our pet’s teeth every day, twice a day, but good luck with that! Aim for every other day and introduce the practice slowly so they accept it.
Pet toothbrushes are also available, these are especially helpful for dogs with long muzzles as they let you reach the teeth at the back of the mouth. Most are double headed, use the bigger brush for the molar teeth and the smaller for the incisors and canines (fangs). Children’s toothbrushes can also be really handy. However, it can take time for a dog to accept brushing and some find the brush itself very intimidating.
Which brings me to….. finger brushes! I love these. They are thick, rubber thimbles with bristles at the end. They are really easy to use, dogs generally (provided they are happy to be handled around the mouth) are very accepting of them and don’t worry about being bitten! You never will be if you just keep around the outside sides of the teeth.
2) Dental Chews
This is a doggy only one really, I have never met a cat who enjoys chewing on treats, it’s not really their thing!
There are plenty of different brands out there but the market leader, and certainly the most well known brand, are the Pedigree Dentastix. I don’t recommend Pedigree food in general but I do have time for Dentastix. A great many of my patients are fed them and they do seem to be pretty effective.
However, I also like the Virbac ones, they are also very effective, palatable and have to added advantage of coating the teeth in the same enzymes as are in the toothpaste, so act against bacteria and plaque, even when the dog isn’t using them.
The thing to remember though with the chews is that, despite their claims, they are pretty calorific! So remember to cut back on their meals or use them as treat replacements, not add-ons. Otherwise your dog may well have lovely teeth, but they will be fat!!
There are a few different teeth cleaning biscuits on the market but these are by far my favourite. They come in a couple of different sizes for dogs and a version for cats as well.
The kibbles are really large, which means even the fastest eater has to chew them and not gulp them down whole! Also, the structure of the kibble means that when they bite into it, it doesn’t shatter like a standard biscuit, it stays whole and scrapes at the tooth, removing the plaque and tartar with each chew.
You only need to feed a small handful a day to make a real difference, so this isn’t a costly option at all and is easily achieved by simply replacing your normal treats with t/d instead!
This is wonderful stuff! It is a seaweed derivative that comes in powdered form. A tiny amount is sprinkled on the food every day, so even the fussiest of pets won’t notice it. It has been proven to make the tartar on the teeth, which is concrete-hard, much softer and therefore other cleaning methods – chews, biscuits and brushing – become even more effective. I have definitely seen it’s effectiveness in my patients and recommend it all the time!
It comes in a small pot, generally retailing at around £10 to £13 but it will last the average sized dog at least 3 months, so it is very affordable.
These are particularly helpful for dogs who have smelly breath but who don’t have very dirty teeth. Brushing and chews will definitely help these guys but putting something in the water to swill around their mouths (the doggy equivalent of rinsing and spitting – sloshing and swallowing!) and cut though the plaque and bacterial can be really useful in cutting down on doggy breath!
However, if your dog does have halitosis, you should definitely get them checked over by your vet before you just write it off as ‘normal’. Most owners (and please don’t take offence but it’s true!) struggle to look properly into their pet’s mouths and it is easy to miss a rotten tooth right at the back. Also, it can be a sign of digestive problems, basically they are doing nasty gassy burps (!) and your vet may advise a dietary change.
There are different makes of mouthwashes but you need to choose one with either Chlorhexidine (an antibacterial solution) or ingredients which actively attack plaque build-up. These will be the most expensive! However, cheaper versions simply mask smells rather than actively combatting them and won’t last long at all.
Mouthwashes can also be added to your cat’s water but they aren’t always to keen on the lovely fresh bowls we use them! A couple of tips to get them to drink are; firstly make sure the bowl you provide is really wide and full to the brim, many cats don’t like to get their whiskers wet, secondly, many prefer running water, so buying an indoor pet fountain and adding the mouthwashes to that will often mean they are actually used!
However, as with dogs, any cat with bad breath should have a veterinary examination before you start any home treatment. They are more likely to have an underlying issue rather than genuinely just be stinky and again, it can be easy to miss!
So, I hope you can see that by introducing just some time changes to your pet’s routine and feeding you can actually make some massive differences to their dental health. You can save them from pain, tooth loss, even surgery and, of course, you make your life much more pleasant when they come in for a big slobbery kiss!