Dental disease is very common in cats and dogs. Studies have shown that after the age of 3 years, about 7 out of 10 pets have some kind of tooth disorder. If left unattended then these may cause irreversible damage to the animal’s teeth, gums and jaw bones. Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build up of plaque.
How do I know if my pet has tooth disease?
Problems begin with the build up of plaque, a sticky film that is continually forming on the teeth. Plaque if left untreated hardens and forms tartar.
Tartar is yellow and builds up over time to big chunks of calculus.
Signs to watch out for:
- Stained and discoloured teeth (should be white and shiny)
- Foul breath (halitosis)
- Difficulty with eating and mouth pain
- Dribbling excessively
- Head-shaking and pawing at the mouth
- Blood stained saliva
If any of these signs are seen then it is worth getting your pet’s teeth checked out. This can be done for free with one of our highly trained nurses.
Does dental disease affect my pet’s health?
Not all tartar on the teeth is visible, the tartar below the gum margin is the main problem. It contains bacteria which will attack the surrounding gum tissue causing painful inflammation (gingivitis) and infection that can track down to the roots. Pus may build up in the roots causing a painful abscess. Inflammation and infection erodes and weakens the tissues and as the disease progresses teeth can loosen and fall out. Bacteria and the poisons they can produce can also get into the blood stream and cause damage throughout the body, to vital organs such as the liver.
How can dental disease be treated?
If your pet has evidence of dental disease or is in obvious pain then their mouth will need to be assessed. Sometimes it is not possible to see the full extent of the damage until the teeth are examined under a general anaesthetic. Tartar will need to be removed and any loose or badly damaged teeth extracted, the remaining teeth are cleaned using an ultrasonic scaler. Once the teeth are all clean then they will be polished to leave a smooth surface.
It is inevitable that plaque will reappear and without any follow up preventative care it is likely that regular scaling and polishing will be required annually.
Preventing dental disease?
Whilst there are multiple commercial pet food diets available, they are mostly soft and have little cleaning action.
There are special dental diets available that will help keep your pet’s teeth clean. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the only way to truly keep teeth clean. You need to get your pet used to having their teeth cleaned from an early age.
Introducing the pet toothpaste – smear a small amount of toothpaste on your finger tip. Allow your pet to lick the toothpaste. They should like the taste and be keen to eat it.
Getting them used to something in their mouth – place some toothpaste on your finger tip. Rub a small amount of toothpaste on their teeth and gums using either your finger or specialised finger brush. We sell toothpastes that are suitably flavoured and not designed to foam and be spat out.
Help! I can’t brush my pet’s teeth
Not all pets will let you brush their teeth but many with patience and quiet perseverance will let you, if you can do it 3 times weekly it will make a difference. If you can’t brush then the next best thing is to feed a special dental diet, such as Hill’s Prescription T/D or Royal Canin Dental. Even feeding this food for just 10% of your pet’s daily intake can make a difference because the biscuits are larger than the average kibble and don’t shatter immediately when bitten into. Instead the tooth penetrates the kibble and deposits of plaque and other debris are wiped from the tooth’s surface. However, they are both complete diets so can be fed as your pet’s normal daily food.
For dogs and cats that don’t eat dried food we have a product called Vet Aquadent, containing an innovative formula which inhibits plaque forming bacteria, it is a water additive. We also stock Plaque Off, which is a natural seaweed based product that has been shown to prevent plaque build up. This comes in a powder to be added to food or dental bites. There is also a gel available in the Logic dental hygiene range. This contains enzymes that can attack the bacteria that causes plaque. Although Logic gel comes with a finger toothbrush it was originally designed to be used without the need for brushing.
Remember your pet needs regular dental check ups and these can be done either with their yearly healthcheck and vaccination with the vets, or FREE at any time with the nurses. Our Well Pet Clinic offers dental advice & teeth brushing training.
Early tartar removal will not only keep your pet’s teeth healthy longer but also contribute to the overall health of your pet.