Don’t let bad breath from dental disease affect your relationship with your pet.
Dental disease is one of the most common problems affecting dogs and cats today. In humans tartar builds up if we do not remove it by brushing. Likewise in animals tartar builds up if it is not removed by chewing on raw bones or other gnawing toys, or by brushing.
Why does my pet have bad breath?When tartar is not removed it develops into calculus, which is the visible hard, yellowy, mineral build up. The gums then recede from around the teeth and other supporting structures causing the teeth to be weakened, leading to tooth infections and tooth loss. This process is called periodontal disease and is the cause of your pet’s bad breath.
Can dental disease affect my pet’s health?
Apart from tooth problems, periodontal disease also affects general health. Bacteria are released into the bloodstream through the inflamed gums and can lodge in places like the kidneys and heart valves, causing problems in these sites. Therefore, mouth health is important for your pet’s overall health and longevity.
Which bones can I feed my pet?
Most dogs and cats over a few years of age have some degree of periodontal disease, due to not enough chewing on raw bones. While raw chicken wings are suitable for cats and small dogs, larger dogs need shin and shank bones, which most butchers can cut to the required size for you. Do not feed cooked bones as they tend to splinter and can puncture the gut. Some cats prefer the chicken on the bones cooked a little, so you can quickly sear them under the grill.
What are dental chews?
Some dogs cannot tolerate bones – causing vomiting and/or diarrhoea. These dogs can be fed rawhide bones, pigs’ ears, or other chew toys, such as Dental Kongs. If you start your puppies early on the dental chew toys they will have no problem chewing dental chews and healthy alternatives when they are adults. Dry food is better than tinned food for overall health but won’t completely clean the teeth. However, new prescription diets are available from your vet that have a specially designed kibble that helps clean the tooth surface as the animal eats. Talk to your Vet Cross vet for more information.
Can I really brush my pet’s teeth?
Yes you can, there are flavoured toothpastes containing enzymes that help break down plaque and kill bacteria, although the mechanical removal of tartar is the aim. Do not use human toothpastes as these are not designed to be swallowed and can irritate the stomach if ingested. It is much easier to train your dog or cat to allow tooth brushing from an early age, there are a choice of flavours available and you will find your pet will quickly enjoy the experience. You only need to clean the outside surface of the teeth, concentrating on the gum margin. Ask your Vet Cross vet for a demonstration to see how easy it is.
When is dental scaling necessary?
Once calculus is present it usually needs to be removed by ultrasonic scaling. The instruments used are the same as used for humans, and also clean below the gum margin where plaque also accumulates. Loose or infected teeth will need to be extracted before the teeth can be polished to smooth the surface of the teeth to discourage plaque formation. This procedure needs to be performed under a general anaesthetic. Anaesthetics can be worrying for owners, but with newer and safer anaesthetic drugs, and better ways of monitoring animals under anaesthesia, there is minimal risk. Pre-anaesthetic blood tests, which check levels of liver and kidney enzymes and measure red and white blood cell parameters, are recommended for all animals regardless of age
Regular check ups are a good idea.
Periodontal disease can be a painful problem, and can significantly affect your pet’s general health.
Your veterinarian will check the teeth at your pet’s annual vaccination as part of the overall health check but with aged pets and pets with histories of dental disease it’s advisable to have 6 monthly check ups. Always talk to the Vet Cross team if you have any queries regarding your pet’s dental health.