Pet dental health - don't brush it off

25 Nov 11 11:13AM EST
Post by Brendan Mays

Pet insurance is one way you can manage the cost of owning a pet. It’s not the only alternative, but it can save you in the long run, especially in the face of hefty vet bills. We looked into the nuances of pet insurance earlier in the year, and one area of cover that is often excluded is dental health.

Considering that oral disease the most frequently diagnosed problems for pets, we think it’s worth considering an insurer that will cover these costs. Of course, it also helps if you take a preventative approach to your pet’s dental health - an area that can easily go neglected.

“People often laugh when they are first told they need to brush their pet’s teeth, but in fact, it is an important part of caring for your pet,” says Dr Aaron Forsayeth, President of the Australian Veterinary Dental Society and Director of Advanced Animal Dentistry. “Chewing aids and dental products will help, but much like our own teeth, regular brushing or cleaning is required for total care.”

Dr Forsayeth makes the point that human dental health is very much about prevention, but when it comes to pets, this is not yet the focus. “A lot of pet owners don’t even realise that it takes more than special bones or dental chews to keep your pet’s teeth healthy,” says Dr Forsayeth.

While cleaning your pet’s teeth sounds good in theory, we imagine there are plenty of pet owners that would dread the thought of tackling their pet’s teeth. “Cats can be difficult when it comes to teeth cleaning. One way around this is to use a finger toothbrush. Keep your finger on the outside of the mouth, but between the teeth and cheek, and make it a part of the daily routine. It soon becomes easier,” says Dr Forsayeth. Dogs can normally handle a regular toothbrush, or if your pet’s mouth is very small, you could use a swab.

There are loads of pet dental health products on the market, from doggie toothpaste to water additives, and in some cases there is a good reason for these products. For example, the fluoride in regular toothpaste could present a health risk since animals may swallow it, and the taste of pet toothpaste may make the job easier. But, as always, not all products will deliver. “If there was a miracle product out there, we’d already be using it for our own teeth, so ultimately it always comes back to basics,” says Dr Forsayeth.

We suggest using the three Ds for your pet:

  • Dental check ups
  • Daily tooth brushing
  • Dental-friendly diet

Dr Aaron pointed out that many animals in zoos have teeth cleaned regularly, like the polar bears at SeaWorld, so if they can handle it, your pet can too. It could save you a big vet bill down the track, and your animal friends will be able to show off the pearliest whites on the block.

Dental work for pets can be expensive and it's often excluded from insurance. One approach is to pay more attention to preventative care. Have you thought about brushing your pet’s teeth?

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