Dental Hygiene and why it is important!
Oral hygiene is a very important part of your pets health, which is often overlooked. With major advances in the veterinary field when it comes to treating serious infections and disease, oral disease, mainly periodontal or gum disease, has become the number one health problem for both dogs and cats. It is estimated that, by age three, 80% of dogs, and 70% of cats will be affected by dental disease.
Although your pet may be very brave and not let on that they’re feeling pain, they can show a couple of little signs to keep a watch out for. The first thing you will notice is that your pet’s breath will get very smelly. Pets experiencing dental pain may also suddenly change their food preference, from dry, crunchy foods to something softer, like meat and canned foods. They may start to lift their lips on a particular side while eating, or only eat on one side of their mouth. They may shy away from being patted on the head, or quickly turn their head to favour a particular side. After a while they may start to have reduced appetite, reduced energy, and may begin to lose or gain weight.
Plaque and Tartar
Dental disease all starts with plaque. Plaque is an invisible coating that all animals get on their teeth made of bacteria, which form after meals. It begins to harden into tartar, which is harmful for your pets, as it allows bacteria to multiply on the teeth which then enters the blood stream. It also pushes back the gum line, which can expose the roots of the teeth, causing pain, and loosens the teeth so they fall out. Large amounts of bacteria here can easily cross into the bloodstream, leading to infections of the lungs, liver, kidneys, spinal vertebrae and heart valves, with heart disease, kidney disease, and spinal pain being very common. Infections over a long period can cause irreversible damage to these organs, or could lead to septicaemia. Pets who receive regular dental prophylaxis and have prevention against dental disease, and are in an ideal weight category will live longer (two years or more!) than pets which are not given dental treatment.
Dental disease prevention doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be easy as introducing a few dental treats into your pet’s diet. These can include large raw bones (never cooked) with meat and connective tissue still attached, rawhide treats, chew toys, or specially made dental treats available at our clinic. You can also begin to brush your pet’s teeth with pet toothbrushes and toothpastes (don’t use regular toothpaste, it is not meant for dogs, nor to be swallowed). There is also prescription diets available that reduce 80% of tartar buildup when fed as a sole diet.
Regular checkups with your vet are the best way of preventing the progression of this disease, so come in to see our vet once a year to show him how pearly white your pets teeth are!