Over 85% of dogs and cats over 4 years old have some form of periodontal (dental) disease. Dental disease causes bad breath (halitosis) and pain, it is also a source of infection and can make your pet seriously ill.
Dental disease is preventable in the vast majority of cases and in most cases, easy to achieve at home. There are many different methods to keep your pet’s teeth “pearly white” and these should be started while they are puppies and kittens. While dental disease may seem like a relatively minor issue, you would be surprised at the damaging effects advanced dental disease can have on our favourite furry friends.
For adult cats and dogs with existing dental disease, a dental treatment with a scale and polish under general anaesthetic is often necessary to get their mouth back into top condition. This will allow us to start prevention with a clean mouth and hoping to prevent, or slow down dental disease developing again in the future.
What is Dental disease?
A fairly common disease, dental disease is categorized over 4 different stages with a fairly common strand called Gum Disease. Stage 1 is very early and very mild build of tartar, which is caused by a build up of bacteria, saliva and food particles, and can progress into more severe tartar build up, signs of plaque and also the beginnings of gingivitis (inflammation of the gum line) at stage 2. The first 2 stages of dental disease are in most cases, manageable and even reversible through the introduction of appropriate dental supplements, dental related foods and a scale and polish under anaesthetic as required. As we move in to stage 3 and 4, the build up of tartar to be cleared is more severe and can cause multiple physical and behaviour issues and may require an anaesthetic to clean the teeth using an ultrasonic-scaler, by hand and most likely extractions of some of their teeth.
If you’re worried that your pet may have dental disease, some common signs include:
- Bad breath
- Behavioural changes (e.g. lethargy, increased aggression)
- Discoloured teeth
- Favouring one side of the mouth while eating
- Loose teeth/receding gums
- Excessive drooling, sometimes red tinged
- Dropping of food from the mouth when eating, or reluctant to chew
- Sensitivity when touching the mouth/face
In order to prevent your animal from getting dental disease, early prevention is the key.
Some great tips include:
Brushing your pet’s teeth
Yes you read it correctly, brushing their teeth! This is the gold standard of preventative dental care for your pet. Think about how yucky your own teeth feel after a day without brushing, so imagine the effect it has on your pet’s teeth after weeks/months/years without brushing. When brushing, it’s important to use a soft toothbrush and make sure that animal specific toothpaste is used. Slow circles on the teeth and soft brushing along the gum line are the correct ways. If you are starting on a middle aged or elderly dog or cat they will not be used to this activity, so take it slow and make sure the experience is always a positive one (reward with treats!). We suggest you consult with the team at your local clinic about how best to introduce brushing into your pet’s routine.
A wide range of dental specific diets are available to you at your nearest Veterinary clinic. These specific food products available with essential nutrients while including the required dental benefits to keep your animal’s teeth healthy.
Hills t/d is one option of prescription dental dry food available for both cats and dogs. It is designed to keep pets teeth clean, while still providing them with a complete balanced diet. Each piece of kibble is larger than usual, specifically designed to encourage and stimulate chewing. It also has a special fibre matrix within each biscuit which aids in the breakdown of plaque.
Treats and chews
Including everything from Greenies, Prozym sticks, hard rubber, nylon chews and raw hide, treat your pets to treats and chews that will help to naturally get rid of any unwanted plaque. The chewing action aids in the removal of plaque via physical rubbing and the spread of protective saliva. These should not be relied on solely for dental prevention. Talk to the team at your local Best for Pet clinic about the best option for your pet.
There are some toys available which are again great at encouraging your dog to chew. Some of these toys include the Kong and Gumabone. Toys are a useful addition to a dental hygiene program, however they should not be relied on solely.
Veterinary Dental Treatment
In the majority of pet’s lives, there comes a time when their teeth may require veterinary treatment over and above their regular examinations. A dental treatment involves a general anaesthetic and a full dental examination, including charting and scaling, both ultrasonically and by hand, and then finishing with a polish. A very similar procedure used by your own dentist.
If you have any questions about preventative tips or queries on your animal’s dental health, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly Best for Pet Veterinary teams today.