Avoiding Dog Gingivitis and Cat Gingivitis

Dental disease is extremely common in our canine and feline companions. It is estimated that over 80% of pets over the age of three have gum disease. Dogs tend to be affected earlier in life than cats.

For most pets, chewing is the best way to slow the build-up of tartar. A diet of cat or dog biscuits will help to encourage chewing. There are some special diets designed to clean teeth, such as Hills t/d. The fibers of these biscuits are specially aligned so that the biscuit acts like a toothbrush and scrubs the surface of the tooth when the pet bites into it. Your vet can tell you whether these diets are appropriate for your pet.

A diet made up of soft food usually needs to be supplemented for good dental health. Some folks opt for bones, but many vets are now steering clients away from them. Cooked bones can very quickly cause a blockage in the intestines. Raw bones can splinter and perforate the gut, or in rare cases, cause food poisoning if contaminated by bacteria. The bone marrow is primarily composed of fat, so can result in pancreatitis in susceptible dogs. Discuss the pros and cons with your own vet and make up your own mind on this topic.

Chewy treats
Pet Shed's most popular products to help your dog or cat clean their teeth:
  • Rawhide treats for dogs
  • Squeaky vinyl chew toys
  • Chewy rubber dog toys

There are other tasty options for dental care: products such as rawhide chews and Greenies have become popular with many people. The rawhide chews provide a tough surface which cleans the teeth as the dog bites into it. Greenies are a crunchy treat which contains chlorophyll, the pigment which imparts the green color to plants, as well as other teeth-cleaning ingredients. They are high in protein and low in calories and very palatable, so most animals will accept them as a treat. Both Greenies and Rawhide chews are available in different sizes.

And when all else fails, there is always tooth brushing. Yes, you can actually brush a pet's teeth. It is best to train them for this when they are young so they are used to it. It does carry the risk of having a finger chomped on, however. Special pet toothbrushes, which consist of a brush on a thimble-like device, which slips over the finger, allow the brush to reach into the mouth and all those hard to reach areas. Some people prefer the safety of a soft baby toothbrush with a slightly longer handle.

Whilst everyday is ideal, twice-a-week brushings are usually adequate. If you wish to use a toothpaste, ensure that you use a specifical pet toothpaste, as the human products are not formulated for use in pets.

1. Tilley L.P., Smith, F.W.K. The Five Minute Veterinary Consult Canine and Feline. Second Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, 2000.
2. Hills Pet Nutrition. Canine t/d. http://www.hillspet.com
3. Greenies information. http://www.greenies.com.au