One of the funniest adverts on UK TV is the one where the dogs smile and show their false teeth!
Though guaranteed to raise a chuckle, it does of course have a serious side as looking after the teeth of our pets is very important and that applies as much to cats and rabbits as it does to dogs.
Without healthy teeth and gums, a pet may not be able to chew food, could develop bad breath and suffer dental pain.
Feeding a pet sugary treats and not brushing their teeth can cause build-up of dental plaque, which is formed from bacteria. If left, plaque can form yellow/brown tartar. The acid created by the bacteria in plaque seriously damages the surface of the teeth and irritates the gums. This can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), periodontal disease (damage to the tissues around the teeth) and tooth loss.
Special toothbrushes and toothpastes are available for dogs and cats. Pet toothpaste, which usually has a meaty flavour, should always be used because pets dislike human toothpaste.
Pets should be introduced to toothbrushing as young as possible, though it can be successfully started in adult animals.
Signs that your pet is suffering from dental disease include bad breath, yellow/brown plaque-covered teeth and red or bleeding gums. Other signs include difficulty eating, food falling from the mouth, a lack of interest in food, weight loss, face rubbing and excessive saliva.
Rabbits also need special attention. Unlike human teeth, rabbit teeth grow continuously throughout their life. This means that they need to nibble constantly to wear their teeth down. Wild rabbits achieve this by eating lots of grass. Pet rabbits should have constant access to good quality hay. If rabbits don’t eat enough grass or hay, their teeth can become overgrown, leading to painful mouth ulcers. In severe cases, overgrown tooth roots can even penetrate the eye socket. Hay is essential in helping to prevent such tragic cases.
Vets advise that rabbits should be fed at least their body size in hay each day, a handful of fresh vegetables, morning and evening, one tablespoon of commercial rabbit nuggets once a day for rabbits under 3.5kg or one tablespoon twice a day for rabbits over 3.5kg. Don’t feed a muesli-type mix to rabbits as it is linked to painful dental disease.
For a demonstration from a vet of how to brush your dog or cat’s teeth, visit the charity People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals’ website on pdsa.org.uk/pethealthvideos