The month of August is upon us again and traditionally, vet clinics have touted the importance of pet dental health by promoting dental services during this month. I find this amusing since the importance of dental health is not just for the one month per year. I did a little digging. Guess what I found? The Australian Dental Association (people, not pets this time) also promote the importance of dental health during the month of August. It seems we vets have jumped on the human dentists’ bandwagon…
Dental Health Week, which takes place in the first full week of August, is the Australian Dental Association’s major annual oral health promotion event. Its aim is to educate Australians about the importance of maintaining good oral health in every aspect of their lives.
The Importance of Oral Health
I strongly agree that the importance of a healthy mouth cannot be overstated. Pets are no different from people here. The beginning of poor dental health is the beginning of decline for so many of our pet cats and dogs. Sadly, many pet owners see bad breath or brown teeth as a ‘natural aging sign’ of their pets and do not treat it as the serious health issue that it is.
We have always maintained that the best way to care for your pet’s teeth is to feed them a fresh food diet with raw meaty bones. The high carbohydrate content of processed dry foods actually sticks to the teeth. This creates the perfect environment for the bacteria that cause tartar to grow and form their protective biofilm. Fresh food with a need for chewing reduces the ability of these bacteria to bind to the teeth and gums.
But what to do if your dog does not tolerate raw bones? Or your cat just refuses to eat anything other than kibble. We know that not all pets happily eat the ideal diet. And although we can sit and advise you to just ‘wait it out’ or keep on trying those bones, there are just some pets who cannot and these pets need some other form of help.
So, what products do the vets and nurses at Bentons Road Vet Clinic recommend to help keep your pet’s teeth clean and healthy?
Oravet Dental Chews.
These are the one dental chew that actually has a lot of scientific data behind their mode of action. They do actually work. You need to feed these chews at least every second day. They work even better if you make your dog work for the treat and hang onto it, guiding it around your dog’s whole mouth. They contain Delmopinol that dissolves into the saliva, coating the teeth and preventing the build-up of tartar.
There are some pets with poorly designed jaws (think brachycephalic dogs again) that do not naturally allow the chewing motion to clean their teeth. A crowded mouth, an under or over-shot jaw or previous dental extractions will mean the teeth need more work to keep clean. Brushing the teeth with a toddler’s toothbrush and pet toothpaste is the proven way to keep teeth clean. Again, this needs to be done at least every second day, better daily. Also best introduced when young as part of your pet’s daily routine.
Maxiguard Oral Cleansing Wipes.
These are similar to make-up wipes that you wrap around your finger and are really good for the larger teeth. Wiping teeth with these wipes removes plaque and coats the teeth with neutralised zinc, preventing the return of bacteria.
Hills t/d dry food
This one is the ONLY dry food recommended by Bentons Road Vet Clinic and is available for both cats and dogs. The formulation of the kibble retains its shape as the teeth are driven through it. This mechanically cleans the teeth. The kibble pieces are too big to be swallowed whole like most dry foods. Don’t feed this as the sole diet and it should be used in conjunction with other foods to provide better dental health.
Dried kangaroo tendons and chicken frames
These are still our favourite natural dental chews. If your pet can’t tolerate raw bones, try kangaroo tendons.
What to avoid!
Definitely do not feed deer antlers, split marrow bones (lengthwise to allow marrow access) or cut pork bones. These are all far to dense and cause serious injury to the large carnassial teeth of dogs. If your dog’s teeth cannot crush through the bone, it is too hard to be fed. A fractured carnassial tooth is a painful condition that requires urgent surgery. It is a huge tooth that needs to be surgically removed. The cost of surgical removal of this tooth can reach ~$1000-$1400 in some cases. Just not worth it!
Bentons Road Vet Clinic continues to offer free dental health exams during the month of August. As we do every month, because we believe that oral health is important. Book in to have your dog or cat’s mouth assessed, to hear how to keep their teeth clean or to find out about dental treatment if needed for your pet. It is always better to get onto this early, rather than letting the problem get out of hand.
Bentons Road Vet Clinic also use digital dental radiographs in all of our dental procedures. This allows us to accurately assess the health of your pet’s teeth and tooth roots. This technology greatly assists us in seeing the disease going on under the gumline, meaning we don’t miss painful dental conditions.