What you NEED to Know About Your Pet’s Dental Health
Ok, hands up – how many of us have taken a good look inside our pet’s mouth in the last two weeks? Last month? Last year? If you did, what did you see? Or smell? You may have noticed a funky odour, or hard yellow gunk stuck to the surface of your pup’s (formerly) pearly whites. The reason this is an important question is because we want to share a startling statistic with you: more than 85% of dogs and cats over the age of four years have significant dental disease that is in need of veterinary attention. (Yes, you read that right!)
Let’s find out about the cause, effects, prevention and treatment of dental disease, which in the veterinary world is termed periodontal disease. You may not realize it, but the process of dental decay in dogs and cats is very similar to what happens in people. Soft dental plaque builds up on the tooth surface and close to the gums. This plaque contains bacteria which can irritate and inflame the gum tissue, which, over time, can lead to infection of the bone structure that forms a base for the teeth.
The hard yellow gunk that you might see on your canine (or feline) companion’s chompers is called dental calculus, and it plays its own role in periodontal disease. Formed when calcium salts in the saliva mix with existing dental plaque, it begins to cover the tooth surface, and provides a perfect surface for even more plaque deposits. The calculus is also irritating to the gum line, and even worse, it can’t be removed easily without the proper use of dental instruments.
Smile and Woof!
Now that we know about the ‘how’ of dental problems, we can talk about what signs to look for – the effects of all that build up that herald a major mouth problem.
• Whew! An off odour or just plain ‘bad breath’ is the most noticeable sign of periodontal disease, often caused by bacteria, inflammation and infection
• Red line around the gums (gingivitis), and/or bleeding and swollen gums
• Loss of appetite, unchewed kibble, or dropping food or treats regularly
• Ouch! Can we say oral pain? Your pet may become reluctant to have their mouth or head touched. Periodontal disease is very painful for pets!
• Loose teeth, or, in extreme cases, tooth loss due to tooth root damage, dental ligament and bone loss
• Significantly increased risk of kidney, heart and liver disease – in severe cases of periodontal disease, bacteria can travel from the mouth to these organs, causing long-term, microscopic damage
Take your pet for regular physical examination
The good news? Your furry friend’s dental disease can be managed – the key is prevention, prevention, prevention! Look in your pet’s mouth weekly and tell your veterinarian about any changes that your see. Take your pet for regular physical examination, and keep in mind that older pets may need to undergo occasional dental scaling by a professional. Most importantly, if you can, accustom your pet to a daily tooth brushing routine – brushing for even a minute or two a day can remove a significant amount of plaque. Routine dental care is an important component to full body health (and a sparkling smile) for your four-legged friends!
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