How to keep your pet’s dental costs down
A whopping 80% of cats and dogs have dental problems over the age of 3 - but it's not so hard to keep them healthy.
Most pet owners know the pain of a big and unexpected vet's bill. But while some costs are completely unavoidable, there are ways to keep certain expenses down - without sacrificing the health of your pet.
According to the Australian Veterinary Association, 80% of Aussie pets over the age of 3 have dental issues. It's a worrying statistic considering the potential health complications that can come from dental disease.
Bacteria under the gums doesn't just stay in the mouth - it can travel to your pet's heart, kidneys and liver if left untreated. Suddenly, that simple dental issue has become a major problem.
Despite this, research commissioned by Purina Dentalife revealed that Aussies aren't taking dental health seriously when it comes to our animals. In fact, 1 in 4 pet owners admitted that they don't clean their pet's teeth.
Speaking to Finder, vet and dental registrar Kirsten Hailstone said the lack of dental hygiene was not only having an impact on animals' health, but also on owners pockets - but there are ways to get back on track.
Brush your pet's teeth
"Daily toothbrushing remains the most effective way of removing plaque and thus preventing periodontal disease," said Hailstone.
While daily brushing might seem excessive, studies show it has a significant positive impact on oral health, compared to brushing every week - and it's hardly time consuming either.
According to the University of Pennsylvania study, just 30 seconds of brushing a day can control 85% of periodontal disease.
Hailstone also warned that neglecting a pet's oral hygiene is likely to have a knock-on impact on an owner's wallet too.
"If you offer no homecare to control dental disease in your dog or cat, then you can be confident that you will likely need professional intervention to manage your pet's dental disease on a regular basis," she told Finder.
According to Hailsone, homecare is best managed with a combination of brushing and applying gels or food additives. You can also use a functional treat but should check whether they are scientifically tested to reduce tartar build-up or other oral issues.
"Ultimately, the more you do at home, the more you can reduce the need for costly professional intervention," she said.
Don't avoid the vet
While vet bills are often on the bigger end of the scale, Hailsone says owners should never put off getting professional help - as they're only delaying the inevitable and possibly making things worse in the long run.
"Should signs of dental disease appear, it is really important to have your pet examined immediately," she told Finder. "Bad breath is not normal in pets and so should be your first indication to seek a professional opinion for your pet's dental health."
Blood on the brush when brushing, rubbing or pawing at the face, facial swelling or difficulty eating are also signs of dental disease. Pet's who are reluctant to allow brushing may also be struggling, although this may ease with a little extra training.
Hailstone also urged owners to get a comprehensive mouth examination for their pet, and a quick follow-up whenever they visit the vet.
"Following dental assessment, you should receive a comprehensive dental chart which enables you and your practitioner to work together to manage your pet's dentition into the future," she said. "The chart is the key to predicting what treatment your pet will need to help maintain a healthy smile."
Standard pet insurance won't offer any help towards dental issues - but pet insurance which includes routine care will.
Routine care pet insurance helps towards the cost of regular healthcare treatments for your pet, including general health checks, teeth cleaning.
Of course, always remember to ready the PDS so you know exactly what you're covered for.
"Some companies will offer an annual benefit for routine dental care, this is only of value to you if your pet requires regular intervention as would be determined by the result of the dental charting at age two to three," said Hailstone.
Compare pet insurance with routine care
Routine care cover doesn't just help towards teeth cleaning - you also be able to claim money back for vaccinations, microchipping, dew claw removal, and much more.