At the clinic, August = Dental month!
Not that we should only be interesting in our pet’s teeth for one month of the year (as you should be interested in them all year round!), but our topic for this month is Dental disease and dental care. Before we get cracking into the heavy stuff, we just wanted to let our readers know that they can book in for a free dental check with one of our lovely nurses! This will run for the whole month, so give us a call to book in for an appointment today!
Now when you look at your pets lovely smile, have you noticed their pearly whites are not as pearly and white as they should be? Or whose breath is a just a tad stinky or a whole lot stinky? They could be suffering from dental disease!
But don’t worry if you do, you are not alone. Dental disease is one of the most common problems we see here at the clinic with close to 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats having some degree of dental disease by the young age of 2! We are going to let you know the in’s and out’s of dental disease so you can help to keep your pet smiling…. So keep reading!
So what exactly is dental disease?
Dental disease often begins with a build-up of plaque (a sticky film that is continually forming on the teeth). If left untreated, plaque hardens to form a tartar- trapping bacteria and eventually leading to gingivitis (painful and inflamed gums). The supporting structures of the tooth are often damaged, which then ultimately leads to tooth loss. Bacteria associated with dental tartar is what is responsible for the dreaded doggy breath and can enter the blood stream and spread to vital organs such as heart, liver and kidneys causing systemic diseases.
How do I know if my pet has Dental Disease?
Pets won’t often show pain. Even pets with sore gums, infected mouths and broken teeth will often continue to eat, making dental disease difficult to detect. Some signs you may notice at home include:
- Smelly Breath
- Drooling or dropping food
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Pain when eating
- Build-up of yellow brown tartar
- Bleeding gums
These signs of dental disease are subtle and are hard to recognise, which is why it’s a good reason to have regular check ups so we can detect the signs early. Regular dental health checks also help ensure bacteria from dental infections don’t spread to the vital organs we spoke about earlier.
Why does my pet have dental disease?
If your pet doesn’t have to work hard at chewing their food, i.e. on a small kibbled dry food diet or wet/can food, plaque and tartar build-up around the teeth causing bacteria to appear, which in turn leads to inflammation and eventually loss of the attachments (meaning the ligaments that hold the tooth in and the roots themselves).
Can I do anything at home to help?
Prevention is the ultimate key!
- Eliminate wet/can food from your pet’s diet – this is one of the biggest contributors to dental disease as the food accumulates and sticks to the teeth.
- The bigger the better – Choose the largest kibble size possible. Every mouthful your pet takes should be hard work! Imagine what your pet would have been eating in the wild – ripping, tearing and crunching on chewy, strong food.
- Brushing – Yes... You heard right! It may sound bizarre but brushing your pet’s teeth is considered gold standard in home care. Just like with us, daily brushing is recommended to help keep those pearly whites white! But remember- don’t use human toothpaste as this can be poisonous to pets. There is a delicious (well, dogs think so!) chicken flavoured animal toothpaste you can use instead! Click the following link to see step by step instructions to brushing your pet’s teeth.
- See our clinic dental prevention handout for more great ideas!
In some cases the dental disease may be mild and can be treated at home by using a special diet or brushing their teeth. However, in many cases the dental disease has progressed too far for these types of treatment to be used effectively, and your four-legged friend may require a general anaesthetic to address this problem.
So now I can sense you’re wondering what a dental scale and polish procedure is!
The dental scale and polish procedure for our pet is very similar to the process we humans go through when our teeth are cleaned by the dentist. In fact, the equipment we use at the clinic is very similar to the machine you would have seen at the dentist. As you can imagine it is extremely hard to make sure a dog or cat keeps their mouth open for us so we can safely clean their teeth (aka. not get bitten!). Asking them to “open wide and say ahhhh” just won’t cut it with our four-legged friends. An anaestheticis required so we can thoroughly clean all sides and surfaces of the teeth as well as up under the gum line. Sometimes our veterinarians may recommend taking x-rays of your pet’s mouth too. Just like with us, this is to check the structures of the tooth and root under the gum line to ensure the tooth is healthy. Teeth that are severely diseased or decayed are generally removed to reduce the pain for the pet but also to help prevent problems in the future (such as infections). After the teeth have been cleaned, a strawberry flavoured polish is used to buff up those pearly white teeth, leaving their breath smelling lovely and fresh!
Dental disease is not the nicest of topics but we hope this blog has given you some tips and tricks to help keep your furry friend’s teeth pearly white and breath fresh. If you are unsure or worried your pet might be hiding dental disease under their lip, let us know -we can check for you at their next health examination or visit.