Cats and dogs, like all mammals, change their teeth just once during their lives. The early teeth, commonly named “milk teeth” are lost to permanent teeth. If these permanent teeth fall out, they are lost forever and will never grow back. This shed of teeth occurs between four and six months of age, and it can take a couple of months for all the teeth to fall out. The way this happens is permanent teeth push milk teeth until these eventually fall out.
We may not notice that our pet is shedding its teeth because, unlike humans, most animals are never left toothless and because they quite often swallow the teeth, so you will probably never find them lying around. One way of noticing our pup is in the teeth-shedding stage is they tend to bite everything. They bite our furniture, our shoes, anything they can get their paws on. They do this to help the teeth fall. If we want to avoid destroying our house and our slippers in the process, we need to provide them with rubbery toys they can chew on.
Cats and dogs are five times more prone to periodontal disease than humans. There are two reasons for this: one, their saliva is more alkaline, meaning, less acidic, this promotes tartar build up. And second, unlike most humans, they don´t usually brush their teeth after every meal. Gingivitis, or swelling and infection of gums, is a silent disease that can wreck or pet’s teeth causing chronic pain and general illness. Food, bacteria and saliva stick like glue to the surface of the teeth causing what is known as “plaque”. The animals´ immune system gets into action to try and destroy this plaque resulting in gum swelling and subsequent loss of teeth.
There are symptoms we can pick up before it´s too late: red, swollen and bleeding gums, blood in our pet’s water bowl or on the food, bad breath, chewing on one side of the mouth, loose teeth, general apathy and loss of appetite.
The good news for our pets is they don´t usually suffer from cavities, because of the type of bacteria found in their mouths. The bacteria in our mouths responsible for cavities is called Streptococcus mutans. These little fellas feed on leftovers of food on our teeth and secrete an acid as a by product of metabolism. This acid corrodes teeth’s´ enamel and eventually causes tooth decay. However, we do share some common bacteria with our dog friends, such as Porphyromonas, a family of rod-shaped bacteria responsible for tooth loosening and, eventually, detachment. Other bacteria exclusive to our pets, such as P. gulae, eat up gums.
Bottom line is, our pet’s teeth, whether it´s a cat or a dog, needs dental hygiene. The best way to keep plaque formation under control is by attacking from several angles. One way is with adding some Brown seaweed to our pet’s food. The way this works is systemic, as the pet eats, the algae composition is absorbed and is carried through the bloodstream and secreted into saliva, these ingredients help dissolve plaque. These compounds are healthy for our pet also, seaweed is rich in minerals, trace minerals, fibre, omega 3 fatty acids and amino acids.
A second way of helping out pet’s teeth is by feeding them dry food, as opposed to wet pet food, and slightly bigger in size. Dogs use their teeth to tear but they seldom chew their food, unless it is too big to swallow. Cats tend to chew more. So, if you feed your pet dry food that comes in larger pieces, you will force your little friend to chew making their jaws work, their teeth cleaner, by friction of the dry food against their teeth, and you will help their digestion.
A third way is giving our friends some special teeth cleansing treats. Again, their work by friction and they are a good ally.
A forth way is by daily brushing. There are special tooth brushes and toothpaste available everywhere now. Just five minutes a day of good tooth brushing can make a huge difference.
And, finally, if all of the above is not enough to keep our pet’s teeth in perfect condition, perhaps it is time to visit the vet and have a professional clean. Surely, if you can do all things mentions above, this last, harsher, more costly but often necessary option, will be occasional.