Smorgasbord Pet Health Rewind – Your pet’s teeth are as important as your own.

Smorgasbord Pet HealthI am happy to say that amongst my clients I have been been delighted to include some four legged ones.  It began when a lady turned up for her appointment with an overweight little dog of indeterminate parentage, with the request that perhaps I might design an eating programme for him too.  And that she would be happy to add 5 Euro to her weekly consultation fee. I opted for a weekly cuddle instead (with dog not his owner!) Happy to report that both mother and pampered baby lost weight over the next two months!

This resulted in a few other consultations -mainly for weight and I wrote a number of articles for my then monthly online health magazine.

As I have mentioned before I am old school and believe that animal’s digestive systems are better suited to a more natural diet.  Dry food is convenient and the more expensive varieties do have added nutrition but if used, it should be only 20% of the diet with 80% made up of protein, fibre in the form of rice, vegetables, fruit such as cranberries and other berries, some cheese and suitable bones.

Pet food is big.. no make that huge business, with 2015 seeing global spend in the region of $70billion.

Most veterinarians sell on their premises and recommend it to their clients and make a substantial profit. It is quick and easy to use and there is no doubt that preparing your own pet food can be time consuming.. but in fact usually works out a lot cheaper than spending

Dogs and our relationship evolved with them sharing the scraps from our fireside and then table. In the wild they would have scavanged and also killed, digesting both skin and bone. The bone in the carcass would have ground their teeth down but also kept them clean of debris and bacteria.  Today, many domesticated dogs either eat dry food with chemical addtives and manufactured supplements or canned food that is processed by products of animals that are for human consumption.

One of the main claims of dry food manufacturers is that a dog or cat eating dried food will be benefitting from clean teeth.. Not so.. a dog or a cat has teeth that are designed to bite and tear flesh, when they eat dried food with proteins from grain the pellets or biscuits shatter or are swallowed whole.. the pieces do not reach the gum level and dislodge the plague that has accumulated.

Your dog or cat has very sharp teeth especially those nippy little puppy or kitten first set. They need to be cared for as in humans, otherwise it can affect the animals health in their later years.  I am going to focus on cats and dogs in this post but any pet that you have, especially rabbits and guinea pigs, need to have their teeth tended to regularly to prevent them overgrowing and causing damage to their mouths.

What happens to a dog or cat’s teeth.

Just like humans, pets can suffer with their gums and their teeth. Bacteria combines with saliva and food particles to form plaque build-up on and between the teeth.  Not only does this erode the enamel but it also damages the gums leading to infections such as gingivitis.  In later life gum infections and cavities in teeth can lead to serious internal disease of the heart and kidneys.

Periodontal disease affects nearly 80% of all cats and dogs over the age of three and is the number one health problem diagnosed in cats and dogs.

Puppies have no teeth at birth.  They have 28 temporary teeth (deciduous or milk teeth) which erupt at about three or four weeks of age. This is about the time that a puppy might be making an attempt to eat some solid food. At about four months old these temporary teeth have been lost and replaced with 42 permanent teeth which is ten more than humans.  The most prominent of these are the four canines at the front.

Kittens’ baby (sharp as needles) teeth erupt a little sooner than puppies at two to three weeks old and are replaced with 30 permanent teeth at about three to four months old.

For both puppy and kitten the teething period can be as uncomfortable as it is for a human baby and it is a time when slippers and any item that is remotely chewable is fair game.  This is the time to start introducing alternative chewing items such as suitable toys and specific and appropriate rawhide chews.

Good dental care for young and old animals is as important as it is for us.  Symptoms of dental problems in a dog would be yellow and brown build-up of tartar on the gum line, inflamed gums and bad breath.  In a cat the symptoms would be the same.

Broken teeth can also be a problem, particularly in outside dogs that chew on stones and other objects when their gums are irritated. For inside dogs some of the commercially produced chews are too hard and can result in breaks.  Smaller dogs can often have more of a problem than the larger cousins as their teeth can be too large for their mouths which causes crowding and more opportunity for plaque to accumulate.

The biggest problem in cats, are raised swellings above a tooth in the gum.  This can be caused by one of two problems a re-absorption of tooth matter back into the gum or an abscess.  Both can lead to tooth loss in the cat and are extremely painful.  The cat loses appetite and will slowly deteriorate.  If you start examining your cat’s mouth when they are a kitten and check them once a week you can pick up on these problems early and get a vet to deal with them. You will also get the cat used to you and the vet handling it and examining its mouth.

Natural ways to keep your pet’s teeth clean.

One of the most natural ways to clean your pets’ teeth is to give them a carrot to chew on. (Which is good practice for young children too).  If you introduce it to them early enough they will accept it as part of their play and chew routine.

You can buy commercially prepared toothbrushes and I had one that fitted over the top of one of my fingers. If you are less confident about putting your fingers in your pet’s mouth then you can buy long handled bruses specifically for dogs and cats.  I used natural and safe pet toothpaste that comes in a variety of flavours including malt; chicken and beef and if you clean the teeth in a rotational movement you will keep their teeth clean. There are slightly different toothbrushes for cats and also cat preferred toothpastes and gels.

Vets recommend brushing your pet’s teeth once a day, but I have found that two or three times a week is a benefit, especially if they actively chew on rawhide bones etc every day. Each pet is different and you need to get them used to you examining their mouths on a regular basis from an early age. Here is a video that shows you the technique.

Bones for dogs are best if they are raw and medium sized lamb bones two or three times a week are best. If a dog chews on a very large hard bone they can get carried away and crack a tooth. Cleaning their teeth is not the only benefit as the one itself passes through the body and supplies some important nutrients for the dog including calcium as well as providing natural fibre for their diet.

You can have your pet’s teeth cleaned at the dentist but a word of warning.  When the gums are worked on they bleed and the bacteria released can be ingested and cause illness.  A vet will usually give the pet antibiotics after treatment.  If you know your pet well you will realise that there is no way a vet can treat their teeth while they are awake so sedation or general anaesthetic is necessary.  This means that it is not something you want to do on a regular basis or when the pet is older.  Since this is the time when the teeth are at their worst, it is better to start looking after them when they are very young.

Pets can also get cavities like humans but because their diet is not so high in sugar (or should not be) they are more likely to damage their teeth in play or whilst eating food that is too hard for them.

It is quite common, particularly in the United States for dogs to have teeth replaced by crowns and bridges, when the ability to chew food is compromised. I have never actually seen this but my mind does slightly boggle at the thought of a dog removing a set of dentures at night and putting them in a glass beside his dog bed.  Don’t let’s go there!

There are some natural remedies that can help heal gum infections but always refer to your vet if you feel that your pet has red and bleeding gums or has lost it’s appetite.

To help heal the mouth after dental treatment you can use this herbal remedy, Goldenseal. (useful for humans too)

Break open five capsules of the herb and mix with one pint of boiling water.  When it is cooled use a syringe (without needle) and gently wash the liquid over the gum line.  It won’t matter it the dog ingests some of the liquid, as it is a natural antibiotic.

One vitamin B3 (Niacin), is actually very important for pet health including dental hygiene.  You will sometimes see a dog suffering from deficiency symptoms if they are on a fad diet that is not balanced.  I have seen problems in dogs that have been fed on just cereal-based foods without any animal or vegetable proteins. In dogs gingivitis, ulcers and cavities are symptoms but others include anorexia, dehydration, diarrhoea, excessive salivation and drooling, vomiting, and weight loss.

In cats a deficiency of niacin is rare but unlike humans and dogs they are unable to synthesise niacin from tryptophan which means without a balanced diet they can become deficient in B3.  The signs include those for a dog but also can cause respiratory distress and very poor quality coat.  It is more likely to be in an old cat, perhaps one that has already suffered a fair amount of tooth loss and decay and is fed entirely on dry food that it cannot digest properly.  Niacin rich foods are lamb, liver, tuna and poultry and if you do not want to prepare your own dog food then consider feeding one meal a day from a high quality wet pet food that has easily absorbable animal protein.

I hope that you have found this interesting and as an added incentive to caring for our dog or cat’s teeth you can also kiss goodbye to paying a vet to clean them, under sedation from around 150- 250 Euros to over 1000 euros if there are extractions or more detailed dental work required.

©sallycronin Just Food for Health 2004 -2017

14 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Pet Health Rewind – Your pet’s teeth are as important as your own.

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  3. Thank you, Sally, for this information. By coincidence, I am taking my 14-year-old cat, Casper to our vet tomorrow to have his teeth cleaned. He has exhibited the signs you laid out of teeth and gum problems. I regret not cleaning his teeth as you suggest.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Pingback: Smorgasbord Pet Health Rewind – Your pet’s teeth are as important as your own. | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  6. Good to know, Sally. I used to brush my first dog’s teeth until she was quite old. I stopped when she started losing teeth in her old age. I would find little teeth all over the place. She was a small dog, only eight pounds. My kids were little at the time and I worried that the teeth were theirs. LOL! Thanks for the info. Hugs xx

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