Dental disease is one of the most commonly seen problems at Tygerberg Animal Hospital. Despite this, it remains an under-recognized disease amongst pet owners. The consequences of poor dental health go way beyond bad breath. Periodontal infection is associated with serious health concerns as well. These range from tooth loss to bacterial infection of the heart, liver, and possibly kidneys. Read on to learn more about this silent problem, and what you can do to keep your best friend’s pearlys as white as we would all like them to be.
Every day, just like in humans, plaque accumulates on the surface of your pet’s teeth.
Plaque is the sticky, colorless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly form on teeth. Plaque will harden into tartar if not removed. Periodontal Disease occurs in response to plaque accumulation. If plaque is left to accumulate on the surface of the tooth, the result will be inflammation of the gums. This is what we call gingivitis. Gingivitis is completely reversibly if treated in time. If left untreated, unfortunately, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, or peridontitis, is inflammation of the periodontal tissue below the gum. Eventually, this can lead to pain, infection, abscesses, and possibly even tooth loss. If infection is not treated, bacteria may get lodged in the blood stream, and affect organs such as the heart and kidney.
Symptoms of dental problems in your pet can include a smelly breath or change in eating habits – perhaps chewing food on one side of the mouth only. You may notice that your pet drops food or that his or her mouth is painful. Drooling more than usual may also be seen. Your pet may not want to chew the usual toys, and may rub his or her face on the ground or paw at the face because of the pain. You may even notice weight loss.
If you notice any of the above signs, and are concerned about your dog or cat’s teeth, book an appointment with your Tygerberg vet. Your vet will examine the teeth, and decide whether a professional cleaning will be necessary. A professional cleaning involves a full general anesthetic. Teeth will be examined fully, extracted if necessary, scaled and polished. Your pet will then be monitored during recovery from the anesthetic, and will usually go home later the same day.
You can help keep your pets’ teeth strong and healthy at home, and positively influence general health, with these simple tips for home dental care and pet tooth-brushing:
- Daily tooth brushing is the best thing you can do at home to promote good oral hygiene and allows you recognize problems early. Plaque can build up on the teeth within 24 to 36 hours!
- use a soft bristled human toothbrush or a specially designed pet toothbrush
- Use specific pet toothpaste, or none at all, your toothpaste can make your pet ill.
- Begin brushing teeth from the age of 8-12 weeks. When your pet starts losing their baby teeth, brushing may be a little painful, continue once all permanent teeth are visible
- Make teeth brushing fun for your pet. Use love, and praise, and establish a routine. Perhaps a little food treat after cleaning
- Consider other dental aids, such as rubber chew toys, and specific dental kibbles.
Following a consistent home care program will safeguard your pet’s dental health and result in fewer professional cleanings, less tooth loss, and a happier, healthier pet. Work with your vet to ensure a long, happy life for your beloved pet.
For further advice, speak to any of your Tygerberg vets- they will be more than happy to answer your dental questions.