Dental guide for cats and dogs

Checking young male Maine Coons teeth health.

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Many pets experience dental problems. As one of the most common health issues facing both cats and dogs, it’s really important to look after their teeth and gums from an early age. Not only is tooth and gum disease painful, but left untreated can lead to other problems like heart problems and kidney disease.

How will I know if my pet has tooth decay or gum disease?

Your pet may not let on if they’re suffering from toothache, so you need keep an eye out (and a nose, in some cases) for the tell-tale signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Dropping food
  • Discomfort when eating, like eating on one side of the mouth
  • Bleeding, red or swollen gums
  • A red line along the gum
  • Brown/yellow plaque
  • Broken or missing teeth
  • Any unusual swellings on their face, especially their cheeks under the eye.

What can I do to look after my pet’s teeth and gums?

Close up of a dog at dental examination.

How do I clean my pet’s teeth?

Cleaning your pet’s teeth might seem like a wacky idea but it can be a good way to minimise their chance of developing painful and nasty teeth and gum problems. Your pet probably isn’t going to like it at first – if ever – but you have a much better chance of them getting used to it if you start brushing from an early age. Here’s how:

  • Buy a suitable pet toothbrush and special pet toothpaste for your dog or cat. Never use human toothpaste and never share brushes amongst your pets – they need one each!
  • Familiarise them with the taste of toothpaste by putting some on your finger and encouraging them to lick it off. If they’re not playing ball, try putting a small amount of toothpaste on their nose so they get used to the smell – eventually they should take it from your hand. Repeat for a few days in a row.
  • Once they are comfortable with this feeling, start introducing the toothbrush. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle next to the gum line and start brushing with soft, circular movements, just like you do to your own teeth. Start doing this for a couple of seconds to begin with and slowly this up over a few weeks.
  • Don’t get cross if your pet doesn’t respond very well – be patient. They may never take to having their teeth brushed, in which case it’s not worth the stress for you or your pet. You can also try introducing brushing by finger pads / wipes first, then moving onto brushing once they are comfortable.

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Our articles are not a replacement for face-to-face vet advice. It’s important to consult with your vet on a regular basis to raise any pet concerns that you may have.

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