DENTAL HOMECARE PROGRAM

smiling maremma

Dental problems are one of the most common things we treat at The Natural Vets.  Dental disease affects more than three-quarters of our pet population, and is a disease that can rapidly advance to cause big and often unexpected problems.  Periodontal disease can be happening below the gumline without your knowledge, and can lead to pain, tooth loss, and damage of major organs including the heart, liver and kidneys by seeding bacteria and reactive protein complexes in the blood.

Prevention and management of periodontal disease begins at home by providing a clean diet, using effective plaque-control measures, and training your pet to accept the cleaning of their teeth. Without effective daily plaque control, your pet will be at risk for periodontal disease.  Regular dental cleanings with your Veterinarian are an important component of oral health care, but ongoing homecare is also required for optimal dental health.  Below is an easy 3-step plan to follow for effective home dental care.

1. FEED A RAW NATURAL DIET

There are a number of dry processed foods that are marketed as having dental care properties.  Dental diet biscuits are designed to have an abrasive action on the teeth as the animal bites down on them, and may have ingredients added to slow the progression of tartar development.  In our experience, however, these diets do not compare to a raw, natural, wholefoods diet, both for dental maintenance and for overall health and well-being.  Dogs and cats do not chew their food, and so unless they by chance happen to crunch through a biscuit as they pick it up, the abrasive action of the biscuit becomes obsolete.

Residues from processed foods stick to the teeth forming a perfect environment for plaque development. This is particularly the case for foods high in carbohydrate (ie dry foods – even the grain-free ones!).  A clean diet made up of whole foods that are biologically appropriate for your pet will not leave residues in the mouth and on the teeth.  It will also provide essential building blocks for healthy immune system function and resistance to infection.  At The Natural Vets we provide dietary advice to transition your pet to a natural, wholefoods diet that includes meats, organ meats, leafy greens, healthy extras, and suitable bones.  Switch your pet to a raw, natural diet for long-term dental and whole body health.

Honey and bone

2. BRUSH YOUR DOG’S TEETH

Daily brushing is the best preventative care tool for controlling plaque build up in the mouth.  Brushing even three times weekly has been shown to reduce plaque levels.

To establish a daily brushing routine, start with a soft toothbrush, fingerbrush or a wet washcloth or pantyhose wrapped around your finger.  The first step is to get your pet to accept your finger in their mouth with the abrasive item touching their gums and teeth.  Just slip your finger under their gum line quickly when they are quiet and resting, and then go back to scratching them around the head as though nothing happened.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.  Once your pet is accepting your finger inside their mouth, you can progress to brushing one tooth at a time.

Try brushing one or two teeth, with or without some pet toothpaste or a homemade paste made with coconut oil & diatomaceous earth (which has mild antibacterial and abrasive properties). Gradually, as familiarity with the brush is established, you can initiate more vigorous brushing of more teeth.  It is helpful for you and your pet to make the brushing part of your daily routine, so doing the brushing in the same place at the same time and rewarding your pet with delicious treats afterward can be helpful.  Do this repeatedly and consistently in the beginning – the more often you do it and make it a pleasant experience for your dog, the more quickly it will become an accepted part of their routine.

Toothpaste is not an essential part of this routine, what is important is the manual brushing action cleansing the tooth surfaces.  None of the pastes on the market have been proven to be any more effective than brushing without paste, and many animals like the paste so much they may not sit still for brushing because they are trying to eat the paste.  Paste can help to train your pet to enjoy the tooth brushing experience, but are not necessary long-term.  If they make brushing easier, then use them, but if they are just a gooey sticky thing you can do without, skip the paste and give a tasty reward after brushing is finished.

This is a great video teaching how to train your dog to accept teeth brushing.

The trainer works with targetting first, teaching the dog to accept having the face held and building positive associations between the brush and the dog.

3. UTILISE EFFECTIVE DENTAL CARE PRODUCTS

There are many dental care products on the market, and not all of them are effective. Products with the VOHC stamp of approval have clinical evidence to show that they decrease plaque and calculus accumulation. Look for the VOHC stamp of approval on the packaging before purchasing dental products. Examples of products that carry the VOHC stamp of approval include Maxiguard oral cleansing gel and Greenies treats (canine and feline).  Offering an approved dental chew daily or using an oral cleansing gel like Maxiguard together with a natural diet and regular brushing will keep your pet’s mouth in a healthier and sweeter-smelling state!

Plaque control is best achieved with a multi-faceted approach. For example, one might feed a raw natural diet, brush the teeth daily, use Maxiguard gel or Healthymouth water additive, and feed Greenies treats or appropriate meaty bones as part of their dog or cat’s home care plan to prevent the formation of plaque and calculus. Even with daily home care, every pet should have twice yearly dental exams with your Veterinarian, and some pets may still require a prophylactic dental scale under anaesthetic every year.

Every pet that undergoes a dental treatment at The Natural Vets can return for three free visits with our Veterinary Nurses to assist you in implementing an effective home dental care program.