Why is dental health for pets important?
Just like you, your pet needs to maintain healthy teeth and gums. But unlike you, they cannot do this by themselves!
With dental diseases extremely common in pets, by the age of 5 a lot of them will need dental treatment. Primarily caused by a combination of dietary and genetic factors, thankfully, there are things you can do to help.
Pet dental care is an extremely important part of your furry friend’s health. Dental disease is a very common problem in dogs and cats. It is estimated that close to 80% of the UK’s population of cats and dogs over the age of three suffer from some degree of dental disease. If left untreated, dental disease can be much more serious than just bad breath.Just like humans, dogs and cats have two sets of teeth during their lifetime. The first teeth that erupt are known as deciduous teeth; the full set of adult teeth that replace the deciduous ones will not be fully erupted until around 6 months of age. It is important to examine the deciduous teeth to determine if the adult teeth will be correctly placed, so that further problems can be avoided in adult life. It is vital to maintain the adult teeth and gums in order to prevent dental disease.
If proper oral care is not undertaken, then a thin film of bacteria begins to build up on the surface of the teeth; this is known as plaque. Within days the plaque becomes mineralised, producing calculus/tartar, which has a rough surface and attracts more bacteria. This accumulation of tartar irritates the gums, causing them to become red and inflamed, which is called gingivitis.
Gingivitis is a very painful condition for your pet. If the gingivitis progresses it eventually leads to a pocket forming between the gum and the tooth. Food debris becomes trapped in this pocket and leads to breakdown of the tooth attachments as well as the bony socket, which is known as periodontal disease. If the disease continues to progress, the gums will then recede and infection will occur, leading to loose teeth and a very painful mouth.
How does a pet owner know if dental care is needed?
Examination of the teeth is key, and you need to know what to look for. Not all of our pets understand why this examination should be done, especially if they have not been accustomed to it! If you have any concerns, an examination by a vet or nurse will help you.
Signs of dental disease include:
- Bad or smelly breath (halitosis)
- Red gums (gingivitis)
- Bleeding from around the teeth
- Loose, broken or discoloured teeth
- A change in chewing or eating habits
- Pawing at the mouth is a sign of pain and perhaps wobbly teeth
- Salivating excessively due to pain or discomfort
- Reluctance to eat. Although this occurs rarely, and many dogs and cats will continue to eat even with horrible dental disease.
In severe cases, bacteria can spread into the bloodstream and to the major organs such as the heart and kidneys.
Dental disease is easy to ignore because it is a problem that comes on gradually, and so can be difficult to notice. Our pets learn to tolerate dental disease, but that doesn’t mean it does not cause discomfort, and in some cases much pain and serious infection.
It is often only when the disease is treated that our pets appear happier and livelier, and we realise then how much the dental disease was affecting them.
Our top tips for a tip top month
- Regular tooth brushing is the most effective way to control plaque build-up that leads to tartar.
- Specifically designed pet toothbrushes and toothpaste must be used.
- If tooth brushing is not an option, don’t worry! There are various other products which can be applied directly to the mouth or given in food which can help reduce tartar build-up.
- Dental treats are not as effective as tooth brushing but can have a modest effect on tartar build-up so can be worth a try.
- Just be aware that these treats tend to be high in calories though so do make sure you are taking this in to account.
- Remember, you can pop into to us for a nurse or vet consultation to chat about your pets’ teeth, and to help get them going with a really effective dental hygiene routine. Look out for those Facebook tips and facts too!