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Nutrition and preventative oral healthcare treatments for canine and feline patients

02 October 2017
14 mins read
Volume 8 · Issue 8


A daily oral hygiene regimen should be recommended for all dogs and cats. It is important for owners to understand the implications of painful dental disease and its impact on quality of life. Periodontal disease is the most common disease found in dogs and cats, and other dental conditions are frequently found. Veterinary nurses must convey to owners that prevention is better than treating established disease, and professional dental treatment must be carried out under general anaesthesia. Implementing dental home care in the puppy or kitten life stage can delay the onset of periodontal disease and increase acceptance. Beginning a routine soon after treatment can help prevent disease progression, and increase intervals between future treatments. Assessing the claims of an oral hygiene product or regimen is crucial prior to recommendation. Toothbrushing is the gold standard and has numerous clinical studies to support its effectiveness. However, it is not possible in some animals and continued compliance is low. Other options should be considered in these circumstances and many dental products are available on the veterinary and pet market. It is important to remain cautious of any products with extravagant claims. A balanced diet is very important to general health and some dental diets claim to control plaque or calculus levels. Dental treat chews can also benefit oral health. The safety of products should be considered carefully as bones and hard chews or toys cause dental fractures and should be avoided. The Veterinary Oral Health Council ( provides a seal of acceptance for some products proven to control plaque or calculus.

Dental and oral health conditions are common in veterinary patients with periodontal disease — affecting around 80% of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3 years (Wiggs and Lobprise, 1997; Lund et al, 1999). A survey by Kyllar and Witter (2005) found that only 7% of the dogs examined could be considered orally healthy. Registered veterinary nurses (RVNs) — especially those involved with nurse-led consultations — require the ability to identify oral health conditions and explain the consequences and necessary treatment options to pet owners. Advising clients on effective dental home-care options and products is an important component of this. The benefits and limitations of each oral healthcare treatment or product should be evaluated thoroughly before discussion or recommendation.

Dental home-care products and diets are designed to reduce the accumulation of plaque or calculus on the tooth's surface. It is important to determine the credibility of a manufacturer's claims by assessing the available research or evidence. The current article will focus on dental hygiene for canine and feline patients, and preventing periodontal disease, although other dental conditions will be mentioned. Discussing dental treatment and adjunctive perioperative dental products is beyond the scope of the article.

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