A very high percentage of older pets have dental disease. Just think what your teeth would be like if you hadn't cleaned them for ten years!
Find out what you should be doing to help your pets teeth stay healthy.
Why is it important that I look after my pet’s teeth?
Our pet cats and dogs rely on us to make sure that their teeth and oral health are in good order.
Poor dental hygiene can be a source of long-term pain and discomfort for many pets. Most owners are unaware of this discomfort because most animals will not cry out in the presence of such pain – they just tolerate it.
If there is infection in the mouth it can allow bacteria into the body via the blood stream and can cause infections elsewhere. Kidney, heart, lung and liver infections can all be caused by poor oral health.
How will I know if my pet has bad teeth?
The first thing to do is to look in your pet's mouth. Bad breath is often caused by bacteria in the mouth, so this may alert you to the presence of dental disease.
Tartar is the hard, brown accumulation which occurs on teeth. It is caused by mineralisation of plaque which in turn is caused by bacterial action against food particles in the mouth.
The presence of tartar leads to gingivitis, the inflammation of gums. The gums become red, sore and prone to bleeding when touched.
Chronic tartar and gingivitis will eventually lead to periodontal disease. In this condition the inflammation causes infection and destruction of the tissue around the tooth. Affected teeth loosen and may eventually fall out.
If the disease is severe, affected animals may eat on one side of their mouth, lose weight or generally fail to thrive. Older cats especially may start to look rather tatty as they may start to groom themselves less enthusiastically.
What should I do if I suspect my pet has dental disease?
If you suspect your pet has dental problems please bring them in to see a vet so that we can advise you on the most appropriate treatment.
If the problem is treated in time all we may need to do is scale and polish the teeth to restore your pet’s smile.
However, if the process has progressed too far, some extractions may be needed. If this is the case, your pet will be much happier without the diseased teeth than if left with infected and sore teeth.
Even very old dogs and cats can respond very well to having teeth cleaned and diseased ones extracted. These procedures can all be carried out in our surgery. Modern anaesthetics and pre-anaesthetic checks make these procedures much safer for geriatric animals.
Tumours and growths are also quite common in the mouth. While many gum lumps are benign, some can be quite nasty so accurate diagnosis and management is very important.
Brushing our pet's teeth is the best method for prevention of dental disease.
It is important to make sure that tooth brushing is fun for all concerned – otherwise it won't be done on a daily basis, and regular tooth brushing is key to prevention of dental disease.
It is important not to use ordinary human toothpaste. This has not been designed to be swallowed and the mineral content may cause problems. Special toothpastes have been developed that are safe for pet use and they come in flavours that are highly palatable for both cats and dogs.
It is best to start by just letting you pet lick a little of the toothpaste and then work up to rubbing some on to the teeth with your finger. Finally you can move on to using a soft toothbrush or a specially designed pet one.
Some diets are especially designed to help to clean the teeth by using increased kibble size and a texture which scrapes down the tooth rather than just breaking up, as a conventional biscuit might.
Dental chews can be helpful, especially for dogs. Cats generally are not too interested in chews, although there are some available.
With any chews you should take care that they are not too rich – some dogs can get upset tummies if they have chews too frequently.
We do not recommend that dogs chew on bones. Cooked bones are especially prone to splintering and causing damage to the gut. Even raw bones can cause gut problems and, although they tend to keep tartar off the teeth, they can chip the enamel and cause dental fractures.
Finally, remember that all chews contain calories so you may need to reduce the amount of food you are giving to avoid your pet gaining weight.
Drinking water additives
Drinking water additive containing oral antiseptics and developed by veterinary dental specialists can help to help maintain dog and cat dental health.
These are added daily to the drinking water to help fight plaque and freshen breath.