Every pet parent wants his or her beloved pet to have excellent oral hygiene.
There are four reasons why poor dental care can affect your pet’s overall health:
- Bad breath or halitosis: If the odour of your pet’s breath makes you recoil, it’s time to seek good dental care.
- Tooth loss: If structures supporting your pet’s teeth become infected, the teeth fall out.
- Oral pain: Severe dental disease can be very painful for cats and dogs. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale signs. *see below
- Organ damage: Bacteria in the plaque can enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart, kidneys and liver. This spread is called bacteraemia and can damage organs and make your animal very sick indeed.
What is pet dental disease?
Dental or periodontal disease affects the teeth, gums and the support structures that surround your pet’s teeth. It begins with a simple plaque build-up on the tooth enamel which contains bacteria and food particles.
If the plaque is not addressed, it remains on the tooth surface and eventually hardens into tartar. When tartar is above the gum line, our veterinary team can remove it relatively easily during a professional dental cleaning. Tartar that makes its way below the gum line is the real problem.
Tartar below the gum line causes inflammation and not only damages the structures supporting the teeth but also causes infection. If dental disease reaches this stage, pets can experience severe dental problems and pain.
How to spot a dental disease
Even if your pet isn’t outwardly showing signs of oral health issues, it’s worth asking our veterinarians during a regular health exam to help prevent potential problems.
*Symptoms of oral health problems:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Pain or difficulty eating ie chewing on one side of the mouth
- Weight loss
- Plaque and tartar
- Red, inflamed, bleeding gums
- Wobbly, missing or broken teeth
- Excessive drooling
- Preferring soft food to biscuits
- A swelling on the face (can indicate a tooth root abscess)
- Pawing at/rubbing the mouth/face
- Blood stained saliva
If you observe any of these conditions, please make an appointment with us as soon as possible. That way, we can alleviate any further dental deterioration and get your pet on the right path to a healthy mouth.
Plaque and tartar
Plaque is a build-up of saliva (spit), food and bacteria; it collects on teeth and eventually turns into a hard, brown substance called tartar. Tartar damages the teeth, causes painful, inflamed gums (gingivitis), and is full of bacteria that can enter the blood and cause problems in organs such as the kidneys, heart and liver.
Gingivitis (inflamed gums)
Gingivitis (inflamed gums) is a painful condition usually caused by plaque and tartar build up. It causes the gums to become red, sensitive and bleed easily.
Tooth root abscesses
A tooth root abscess is an infection around a tooth root that develops when bacteria get underneath the gum. Tooth root abscesses are very painful and often cause swelling on the side of the face (just under the eye).
Teeth are very solid and don’t break easily; however, if they are weakened by dental disease, knocked, or worn down, they can sometimes crack. Always contact your vet if your dog breaks or cracks a tooth – damaged teeth are often extremely painful and vulnerable to infection. We advise against feeding your dog bones because they can cause slab fractures (when a large chunk of tooth breaks off and exposes the inside of the tooth).
How can you prevent dental disease for your pet?
Daily tooth brushing
Brushing away plaque before it turns into solid tartar is by far the best way to prevent dental disease.
Encourage your dog to chew on dental toys which clean the teeth and gums without causing any damage.
Feed your dog a proper diet that needs chewing, not just soft or sugary human food. Feeding some dry biscuits as part of your dog’s meal is thought to be slightly better because they physically remove some of the plaque as your dog chews. However, this is no substitute for brushing your dog’s teeth.
Regular dental check-ups with your vet will help to spot dental problems before they become serious. A good time for a check is at their annual vaccination/booster.