September marks National Pet Smile Month and PDSA is raising awareness of pet dental care. With dental disease a common problem for many of our beloved animals, the vet charity is encouraging UK pet owners to ‘brush up’ on their pets’ oral health.

PDSA Vet nurse, Nina Downing says: “Dental disease not only causes pain but can be linked to other potentially serious health problems. By three years of age, most dogs and cats are showing signs of gum disease. This could be prevented by brushing our pets’ teeth."

Daily tooth brushing prevents plaque build-up. If this is introduced in the right way, ideally when they’re kittens and puppies, it will become normal for them and part of their daily routine. The same technique can be used with older animals, but it may take a little longer.

• Get your pet used to the taste of pet toothpaste by letting them lick a small amount from the end of your finger. It doesn’t have fluoride like human toothpaste so can be safely swallowed, and is usually a chicken, fish or malt flavour which your pet should enjoy.

• Start with gently touching around their mouth and gums, giving positive praise as a reward. Then start lifting up their lips and gently pulling them back so you can look at all of their teeth.

• Once they’re used to their mouth and gums being touched, gently rub a soft cloth along their outer gums and teeth. Don’t forget to give praise and reassurance.

•Apply toothpaste to your finger and rub along the outer gums and teeth, gradually progressing to a toothbrush. Do this a few times a week and build up to daily brushing.

Feeding specially formulated dental diets using special toys to help with tooth cleaning and avoiding sticky, sweet foods can also help slow the development of dental disease. But brushing teeth is the most effective protection.

If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating visit the vet.