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Q. My vet has said that my eight-year-old cat’s teeth are in very poor condition. I’ve always fed her tinned food and have never cleaned her teeth. Is this just a consequence of old age?
A. In an ideal world, we should brush our pets’ teeth twice daily. Imagine the state of our teeth if we hadn’t brushed them for eight years! In the wild, a cat would naturally keep her teeth clean with what she eats, but as we feed our pets food that is very different from their natural diet, we need to take responsibility for their dental health, too. I suspect your vet may have advised a dental treatment under general anaesthetic. If so, this is a good time to start actively maintaining your cat’s teeth. She is unlikely to tolerate your brushing them after all these years, but there are dried diets available that effectively act like toothbrushes, with textured nuggets that don’t shatter but allow the teeth to sink through them. There are also specific dental chews for cats.
Q. Our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was off his food so we took him to the vet, only to discover that all his teeth were rotten and had to be removed. What should we feed him now?
A. Without the grumbling toothache, you’ll have noticed a vast improvement in his demeanour – and no more bad breath! I tend to suggest dried food immediately after multiple extractions, as it doesn’t clog the tooth sockets. The most important thing is to ensure your dog is eating, preferably a balanced diet, because the gums need to heal over. You’ll soon learn what he can and can’t eat, but you’ll be surprised what dogs can manage without any teeth. Although he is now toothless, try to examine his mouth regularly because other problems such as gum infections can still occur. If you’re at all concerned, take him back to your vet.
Q. We’ve been advised to clean our puppy’s teeth. Is it really necessary? How can we train him to tolerate it?
A. Yes – not only will it reinforce his position within the family pack (at the bottom!) but it will also improve his overall health. Allowing plaque to accumulate can lead to tooth and more general infections. But it is so easily prevented by brushing after every meal, and now is the time to train your puppy. At first it will seem like a game to him, but with time and patience will become part of the daily routine. Build up exposure gradually, letting him lick the toothpaste off your finger first – it’s pleasantly flavoured so should be like a treat. Best of luck – it really is worth the effort now for long-term gain.