Imagine what your mouth would feel like if you never brushed your teeth
Not a pleasant thought, is it?
Now imagine how your pet’s mouth must feel…
WHY DENTAL CARE?
Did you know that dental care in dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care? Statistics show that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three.
Without regular dental care, tartar and plaque can build up quickly leaving your pet with foul breath odour and discoloured teeth.
But poor dental hygiene is more than just a cosmetic problem.
As the plaque builds up it creates the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria which, if left untreated, can damage your pet’s heart, lungs, kidneys and liver.
As your pet chews and swallows, a ‘shower’ of bacteria is released into the blood stream and can travel throughout your pet’s body, slowly eroding the delicate organs it encounters and causing irreversible damage.
Once plaque and tartar adhere to the tooth surface the only way it can be removed is through a professional dental cleaning which can only be done under a general anesthetic.
“Doggy breath” isn’t just a minor annoyance – it could be indicative of a serious underlying oral health problem such as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a progressive infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth which starts out as a bacterial film, called plaque. As the bacteria attach to the tooth surface and die they become calcified by calcium found naturally in your pet’s saliva. These calcified deposits form a rough, hard substance known as tartar or calculus.
In the early stages of periodontal disease the plaque is soft and brushing the teeth or chewing hard food and toys may be enough to dislodge it.
As the disease progresses, however, the accumulation of plaque can lead to gingivitis, a painful inflammation of the gums which can cause them to become red, swollen and easily injured (bleed easily).
Without intervention the plaque and calculus will continue to develop below the gum line. If the plaque and tartar buildup are allowed to continue unchecked, infection can form around the root of the tooth.
In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your pet, but good oral health care at home and by your veterinarian can stop periodontal disease before it even begins.
STAGES OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE
The entire gum is inflamed and swollen leading to pain and foul breath. Professional veterinary treatment and home dental care can prevent this disease process from becoming irreversible.
Gum tissue is destroyed by infection and calculus (tartar) and it can become very painful for your pet to chew leading to changes in eating and behaviour. The damage caused at this point may be irreversible.
Chronic bacterial infection begins destroying the gum, tooth and bone and bacteria can be spread throughout the entire body via the bloodstream damaging the kidneys, liver and heart
You sure can!
Regular home dental care is an important part of your pet’s oral health and with a bit of practice it can be a positive experience for both of you.
Be sure to use a toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs and cats – human toothpastes should never be used on pets!
It is important to consult your veterinarian prior to commencing tooth brushing as if your pet’s dental disease is advanced brushing may cause pain and discomfort.
TIME AND PATIENCE ARE KEY
When you first start out, brushing your pet’s teeth can be a bit tricky. Try following these steps to help make the experience more enjoyable for both you and your pet.
HELPFUL TIP: It is important to reward your pet with a healthy treat and plenty of praise after every step of this process. Soon, both you and your pet will look forward to the time you spend together during this important health care procedure.
WHEN BRUSHING ISN’T AN OPTION
In a perfect world, all pets would have their teeth brushed at least three times a week.
But what happens when tooth brushing is simply out of the question? Not to worry – there are several alternatives that can help you manage your pet’s oral health needs:
There are a wide variety of dental chews on the market that can assist you in your quest to keep your pet’s teeth clean.
Remember: not all chews are created equally.
Some rely only on the mechanical action of chewing while others have special added ingredients that are designed to break down tartar and help prevent plaque from adhering to the tooth’s surface. Be sure to check with your veterinarian as some chews (such as raw hide) can remain undigested leading to gastrointestinal problems.
There are many dental rinses that exist in the market that are designed to help break down plaque and prevent tartar from sticking to the tooth’s surface. Some of these rinses are better than others so speak to your veterinarian to find out which ones are recommended for your pet.
Diets such as Prescription-Hills T/D and Royal Canin’s Dental Diet are specially formulated diets designed to help break down plaque and tartar.
Unlike regular hard kibble, these dental diets contain special enzymes and have a specific texture to continutally scrape the tooth’s surface as your pet chews.
TALK TO YOUR VET!
Your veterinarian is a great resource for your pet’s oral health. Don’t be afraid to talk to your veterinarian about developing a dental care plan for your furry friend!