Why is oral hygiene so important?

Just like you, your pet has only one set of adult teeth. Dental hygiene is very important, but what is not well known is that dental disease can significantly reduce the lifespan of your animal companion. Bacteria that accumulate on your pet’s teeth can easily enter the bloodstream and cause serious damage to your pet’s heart, liver and kidneys. Over 80% of pets over the age of three have some form of periodontal or dental disease.

Pets also have different dental problems to humans. The most common problem for people is tooth decay (caused by loss of calcium from the enamel resulting in cavities). Tooth decay in dog’s accounts for less than 10% of all dental issues. The main cause of dental problems in pets is periodontal disease. This is an inflammation or infection of the tissues surrounding the tooth. Accumulation of tartar (calculus) contributes to gum recession around the base of the tooth and this exposes sensitive nerve endings. If left untreated, infection soon follows and the gums recede even further. Infection quickly spreads into the tooth socket and ultimately the tooth loosens and is lost. During this process bacteria are absorbed into the bloodstream through damaged gum tissues.

If your pet displays any warning signs of periodontal disease, contact Vets4Pets.

Things to watch for:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow-brown crust on teeth
  • Reluctance to play with toys
  • Bleeding gums
  • Subdued behaviour
  • Going to the food bowl, but not eating
  • Abnormal drooling
  • Dropping food out of the mouth
  • Swallowing food whole
  • Change of chewing or eating habits
  • Tooth loss

Minimise the risk of further damage and discomfort by bringing your pet to Vets4Pets for an assessment at the first sign of the disease.

Note: A general anaesthetic is required for treatment to remove tartar build up or any loose or damaged teeth.

How can you prevent periodontal disease?

Brush your pet’s teeth using a toothbrush and specially formulated toothpaste.  They will happily accept brushing after a gentle introduction.  Ask Vets4Pets staff for advice.

Vets4Pets also recommends:

  • Special dental diets such as ‘Royal Canin Dental’. These specifically formulated foods provide a mechanical action for cleaning your pet’s teeth while eating.
  • Dental treats like ‘Greenies’ and raw beef hide pressed bones. Some tough dog toys also provide dental benefits.

We also suggest a water supplement ‘Aquadent’, used daily in drinking water to improve your pet’s breath, reduce plaque and tartar formation.

Other ways to protect your pet

Vets4Pets suggests removing raw bones from your pet’s diet as they can easily get stuck in your pet’s digestive tract and cause an expensive medical emergency.  Bones are also high in fat, contain bacteria, go off quickly and frequently break teeth.

Do not use human toothpastes on your pet’s teeth.  These contain harmful foaming agents that are not intended to be swallowed.  Many types of human toothpaste also contain a high content of fluoride and artificial sweetener xylitol, which cause health problems in pets.

Give your pet a professional dental check up

If your pet has never had a professional dental check-up or it has been some time since your pet was last checked, contact the friendly staff at one of our hospitals for an appointment

When your dog or cat has a general veterinary check up, their teeth will be checked too. The majority of pets will sail through life with a healthy mouth and teeth and never need any oral intervention, other than the occasional brushing or cleaning, but sometimes they need to have teeth extracted or repaired or may land up with periodontal disease.

Your vet will automatically check the state of your dog’s oral care, and this is usually done on an annual basis. If their teeth are in terrible condition – perhaps you have a rescue who has never had a good diet, exercise or been loved and looked after – your vet may recommend a cleaning under anaesthesia. Most times, hopefully, your vet will tell you that your pet’s teeth are amazing and you don’t have to worry till next year.

Signs Your Pet Needs A Teeth Check

If your pet is showing any of the following signs, you may want to book a dental veterinary appointment:-

  • Bad breath.
  • Broken or discoloured teeth.
  • Bleeding or swelling in the mouth.

Trouble with Food?

Also, if your pet is having trouble eating their food, struggling to chew their food, is dribbling a lot, or has no appetite, book an appointment. They may well be sick, and your vet will find out and treat them, but it may also be a dental issue.

In extreme cases, your animal may require x-rays, an evaluation under anaesthesia and extractions. Think of what your dentist may have done for you in the past. It’s not that different in an animal.

Brushing Your Dogs Teeth

At home you can brush your pet’s teeth, daily or weekly, or as your dog allows. Sometimes, prevention is better than cure, and in the same way you vaccinate your pets, brush their teeth too. And get them their six monthly or annual check ups.