Avoid dental calamities

with measures that also safeguard savings

Anyone who’s ever had a toothache (yes, just about everyone) truly gets a first-hand appreciation of the necessity for good oral hygiene. While our pups and kitties are our pets, they too have dental requirements and, as is always the case with teeth and gums, prevention is always better than cure.

After seeing an increase in oral-related claims – mostly canine – pet insurance specialist PD Insurance is vocally advocating for a stronger focus on pet dental health so pet parents everywhere can avoid unnecessary vet visits and save money.

Chief Operating Officer Michelle Le Long points out that having a vet treat chipped, broken or decayed teeth is costly, let alone the more serious health issues these problems can cause.

Beyond the likes of gingivitis and periodontal disease, poor oral hygiene is linked to a range of serious conditions including heart disease, diabetes, liver and kidney issues, and more.

“With the price of everything going up and vets under pressure, we don’t want anyone taking in their pet for avoidable dental attention unless necessary,” she says. “Preventing medical visits for this purpose often just takes a little mindfulness and ongoing maintenance for your pets’ gnashers.”

Regular cleaning

Twice a day for you, twice a week for your dog and your cat. That’s generally good advice for how often you should delve into your fur kid’s jowls for a scrub. Pet-specific toothbrushes are available, but a child’s one is just as good – and either use no toothpaste or (ideally) a pet-specific formulation.

As dentition varies between breeds, ask your vet for advice on the best method for your pet.

“And remember, getting your pet into a teeth cleaning routine isn’t all that different from doing it with children: start early so they get used to it, and stick to the program!” advises Le Long.

Many vets recommend professional teeth cleaning every two or so years; regular in-home brushing sessions will alert you to any plaque buildups or changes in gum colour that could indicate disease.

Watch the diet

Just like lollies and fizzy damage human choppers, so too will an unhealthy diet adversely affect the mouths of our furry family members. Quality, appropriate food is key.

Dry food has a mildly abrasive quality and can contribute to cleaner teeth but is in no way the solve-all. Bones are a bit controversial; while dogs love them, they can cause injury in more ways than one. Vigorous eaters’ teeth can break and too much can cause tummy upsets and constipation. Cooked (and chicken) bones can splinter and cause serious internal injury.

A noteworthy safe and healthy option is dental chews. Le Long advises these can satisfy the need to chew, but they can also be digestible and support good oral health.

“Basically, a good diet combined with regular teeth cleaning are the keys to better dental health,” she adds. “And that’s also the key to fewer vet visits.”

Toys for teeth… and rocks?!

While felines at play are easily satisfied with catnip, a bell, or a ball of yarn (and any one of a million everyday items), dogs enjoy a chase and specific toys to chew into. There are some available designed for the dual purpose of play and dental benefit, so seek out and evaluate on their merits.

Then, the perennial pup favourite: a stick. While freely available, select carefully because large or hard pieces of wood can chip or break your fur baby’s teeth.

And what of truly hard ‘toys’, like rocks and stones?

“We’ve had a few claims come in for dogs who’ve been tossed a rock and gone for it… please don’t do that. Just imagine biting concrete. Not a nice thought, and it isn’t all that different for a dog!”

However, dogs can easily get into rocky strife all on their own. Archie the Labrador is one such pup – after playing with then swallowing a small rock from the garden. Within 24 hours he’d stopped eating and was vomiting, prompting a trip to the animal emergency hospital where an exam and X-rays showed the rock was blocking his bowel. He was in serious distress.

Several thousands of dollars and a quick insurance claim reimbursement later, Archie’s emergency surgery was a success and within two weeks he was back to his sweet, curious self. When he returned to the backyard his pet parents had changed their garden rocks with turf!

Feeling festive? Easy on the treats

Jingle bells and all that, but our attitudes tend towards the permissive in the holiday season. While treating the fur kids is tempting, it often just isn’t very good for them or their teeth.

“You shouldn’t ever deviate too much from your pet’s standard feed regime,” Le Long notes. “Sure, pet-specific treats are fine and help with things like obedience and training. However, draw a line.”

That means no (toxic) choccies and no lollies, and limit the Christmas scraps that may contribute to gum disease, damaged teeth, and decay. Not to mention pancreatitis and other serious issues.

“Have a good time by all means and make pets part of the family as we do,” says Le Long. “But stay on top of the dental hygiene schedule over summer. There’s nothing worse than needing a vet when everyone’s closed, and taking care means avoiding the possibility altogether.”

Finally, Le Long says recent dental claims, including for dogs with teeth broken from ‘fetch the rock’ and tug of war, “demonstrate that pet insurance comes to the rescue by taking care of the bills.”

“Insurance takes away a huge source of stress for any owner – the risk of costly, unexpected vet bills. It brings predictability to finances and that’s something we all need, especially these days.”

Media contact 

Leandri Smith – The Mail Room 
027 365 9003 | [email protected]