Dr Paws Lane Cove (previously known as Lane Cove Vet Hospital) are passionate about your pets! Dr Rachel shares some information with us about pets and dental issues.
All Smiles at Dr Paws Veterinary Clinic: Let’s talk pet dental health!
Written by Dr Rachel Braude (BVSc), Dr Paws Lane Cove Veterinary Hospital
Dental disease is one of the most common disorders in dogs and cats, with the majority of dogs and cats over the age of 3 being affected. While it may seem excessive to care for your pet’s teeth as much as your own, there are several important reasons to be focused on your pet’s dental hygiene.
1. Dental disease can be painful
Have you ever experienced the pain associated with a bad tooth? This debilitating pain is due to the large amount of sensitive nerves associated with teeth. Our pets also have these nerves, which can make a diseased tooth very painful. Dogs and cats can be very good at hiding pain, and will often still eat regardless of any dental pain they are experiencing. Signs such as difficulty eating or refusing to eat, pawing at the mouth or excess blood-tinged salivation, often only occur when dental disease is very severe.
2. Dental disease can lead to problems with other organs
The bacteria associated with dental disease can start to invade underneath the gum and cause a tooth root abscess. This is a painful condition that will often present as a noticeable swelling on your pet’s face. If untreated, these bacteria can eventually infect the bone and weaken the jaw, which can result in painful and debilitating jaw fractures. As well as this, bacteria can be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and infect other organs, such as the heart.
3. Clean teeth = fresh smelling breath!
‘Doggy breath’ may not only be considered unpleasant for us as pet-owners, but it is usually associated with dental disease due to a build-up of bacteria in the mouth. Bad breath is a sign of infection and should not be ignored or considered normal!
How does dental disease occur?
Plaque is an invisible sticky layer of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. This is a thin layer that is easily removed through brushing. Plaque tends to form in twelve hours, so this is why twice daily brushing is so important in people. If plaque is not removed, it can become mineralised and form layers of calculus. Once calculus is formed, brushing cannot remove it. Calculus does not cause disease, but instead allows more plaque, which means more bacteria, to accumulate.
Eventually, this build-up of bacteria results in an infection of the gum, or gingivitis. In turn, this allows bacteria to proliferate underneath the tooth, destroying the attachments. This is usually irreversible, and will often require the tooth to be removed in order for the infection to resolve.
Take action! Dental disease is PREVENTABLE!
Just follow these steps:
1. Daily brushing
Daily brushing is the best way to maintain healthy teeth and gums. Animal tooth brushes and tooth pastes are readily available at most veterinary clinics, including Dr Paws Veterinary Hospital! A soft human baby tooth brush is also suitable for your pet’s mouth. Remember human toothpaste should never be used.
Ideally, brushing should be gradually introduced from a young age and made part of the daily routine. Flavoured pet-only toothpastes can often make this a more pleasant process for your pet. Remember to always reward good behaviour!
2. Dental diets
Tasty, scientifically formulated dental diets are designed in order to mechanically remove plaque from teeth with every bite. These diets can be highly beneficial in preventing dental disease, as they help ensure plaque does not turn into calculus, so that it can be easily brushed off. Talk to your vet about the best diet for your pet!
3. Chews/ bones
Dental chews and raw bones can also be useful in removing plaque. Care should always be taken with these items as they can often be too hard, leading to fractures and damaged teeth. A good “rule of thumb” is that if you can leave a dent with your finger nail, then it is soft enough for teeth.
4. Water additives
Water additives are a useful addition to your pet’s dental regime as they can significantly reduce the number of bacteria in the mouth as well as soften any remaining plaque. This then makes it much easier for plaque to mechanically be removed through brushing, dental diets and dental chews.
Treatment of Dental Disease
Unfortunately, once the layers of visible calculus have formed, the only way to remove them is with a dental scale and polish procedure. This procedure MUST be performed by your veterinarian under general anaesthesia. It is not safe for either your pet, or your vet, to perform a dental procedure in a conscious animal. Not only is this because dental disease can be very painful, but without an anaesthetic, your pet would be at risk of inhaling all the bacteria, water and debris that are cleaned off the teeth.
For the months of August and September Dr Paws Vet Hospital is offering FREE dental health checks and $50 off scale and polish procedures.
We want to get your pet’s pearly whites up to scratch!
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