Both dogs and cats are mammals and classified as predators (carnivores). As such, they feed mainly on vertebrates. Therefore, they need the right teeth to be able to kill and chop their prey. But even the best teeth can cause problems. Some pets have dental problems that require rigorous treatment already in their youth.
Especially because your four-legged friend cannot tell you that he is in pain, it is important to have regular health checks. Cats, in particular, hide their pain masterfully, which makes it even more difficult. You may notice a fussy eating behavior.
Unfortunately, the dental care of our beloved four-legged friends is usually underestimated and neglected. But in fact, you should take as good care of your darling´s teeth as if they were your own and get them examined from time to time.
What you should know about dog and cat teeth
Dogs have 42 permanent teeth, cats over 30, and the canines are significantly longer in dogs and cats. The largest molars are also called fangs. These form a unit that can interlock like scissors to cut the food (scissor bite). The rear molars have, likewise to humans, the task to grind the food.
Even puppies and young kittens can get serious problems with their teeth: Persistent milk teeth (not falling out) can cause malocclusion. Local inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) must also be treated quickly to prevent later problems. Caries is very rare in animals.
The most common diseases are:
- Periodontitis: bacterial inflammation that leads to the destruction of the periodontium (gums).
- Periodontitis: shrinking of the gums (also possible without inflammation)
- Injuries caused by hard and sharp objects (abrasion from playing with tennis balls, eating stones, etc.)
- FORL (Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions) is also known under the new name TR (tooth resorption): The tooth substance degenerates in the cervical- and root area. The cause is unknown/ multi factorial. Often this dental disease is only visible with the help of a dental x-ray as it does not show any external abnormalities.
- Gingivitis: Chronic or acute inflammation of the gums.
- Diseases typical of the breed: For example, in brachycephalic breeds (short-headedness): Teeth have to little space in the mouth. This leads to malocclusion, pain, increased tartar formation and inflammation.
- Bacterial foci settle on the rough plaque, which can become dangerous for the heart muscle and other organs when swallowed.
Treatment options and help
At each visit to the vet, the pet´s teeth should get thoroughly checked too. During a mouth hygiene (under anesthesia) the biting teeth of dogs and cats can particularly easy be cleaned and cared for. In addition, the veterinarian has also the possibility to identify such problem areas that usually are difficult to recognize.
Sometimes the problem areas are hidden under the gum pockets or only become apparent when the tartar is removed. Broken teeth can also be extracted easily. A root canal treatment is possible for dogs and cats too. In an emergency, dogs and cats are better off without teeth than having to live with pain. Better no teeth than painful ones.
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How you can protect your pet’s teeth
Brush his teeth! Yes, our animals can also be accustomed to dental hygiene. At least every few days brushing teeth should be on the agenda. Get your pet used to it slowly by running your finger over his teeth first and repeat later with a toothbrush. In small intermediate steps (touching his face, lifting his lips, the taste of toothpaste, …) you practice brushing his teeth until it is a relaxing experience for your pet. Reward your darling afterwards with a great treat.
Be careful: Do not use care products that are intended for humans. Human toothpastes may contain xylitol, an additive that is toxic to all animals, but especially to dogs. Many different dental hygiene products for animals are now available. From special toothbrushes and toothpastes to various tasty chewing products (not too hard or high-calorie products are preferable) and ultrasonic toothbrushes without noise.
Attention: Common dental sticks, which are mainly available for dogs, contain, among other things, sugar and cereals, which are known to be more harmful than useful for the teeth. Cats can also be taught how to brush their teeth quickly and playfully: The brush reminds the velvet paws of the mother’s tongue. In this way, dental care becomes a caress.
Proper dental care is not only important for us humans. Our beloved furry friends can also suffer decayed teeth. Protect your darling from unnecessary dental problems and take good care of his teeth. Don’t worry, a tiresome duty like brushing teeth can easily become a fun ritual with games and rewards for both of you. With a patient hand and appropriate products, you can give your dog or cat a radiant smile.