The importance of good dental hygiene in humans is widely reported but, when it comes to pets’, pet owners are often unaware that they can help to prevent problems before they develop.

Bad breath in our pets is not pleasant. For many owners, this is the first sign that there might be a problem in the mouths of their pets. For some owners, the smell can get so bad that it affects their interaction with their pet. As vets, we can sometimes smell the “dental smell” as the pet walks into the consulting room.

In a study by VetCompass, that looked at the prevalence of disorders in dogs recorded in primary care veterinary practices, periodontal disease was in the top three disorders seen. It is without a doubt a real and prevalent problem that not only affects the pet but can really affect anyone close to the pet’s mouth!

Toothbrushing isn’t just for humans

Bad breath doesn’t have to be a problem for our pets. It is something that we can help to prevent and often successfully improve. However, the prevention side is often put in the “too hard” pile by owners. The thought of trying to brush the wriggly puppy’s teeth or the not very impressed cat’s teeth is daunting and therefore avoided. Yet we know that brushing pets’ teeth can be one of the most effective ways of preventing dental disease.

Education is the key

Educating owners about dental disease in their pets and helping them to successfully brush their pets’ teeth can make a real difference for pets and owners. The veterinary team is ideally placed to help owners in this to make sure that they are brushing safely and effectively. The other aspect and one of particular importance for rabbits is diet. Getting the diet right can also help with dental disease and, just as importantly, will aid in reducing obesity which is one of the major welfare concerns in companion animal practice – a real win-win.

Encouraging owners to see the benefit of prevention

Prevention is not feasible for all owners and even when owners do all the right things, dental disease can still occur which is why it is vital that pets get regular dental check-ups. Potentially painful dental disease can only be treated if it is spotted and given that most owners don’t look in the mouth of their pets, it is often an unseen problem – an unseen problem that could be causing significant discomfort and other potential problems. I would encourage all pet owners to see the benefits prevention, correct diet, regular dental check-ups and prompt treatment can make to the health and welfare of pets.