Dental disease is one of the most common conditions that we see. It can affect both dogs and cats of almost any age, although most pets seen with this condition are usually over the age of three.
Dogs and cats get their adult teeth at around six months of age and just like us humans, they only get one set, so it’s vitally important that they look after them!
Dental disease often starts off silently, if you are not looking at your dog or cats mouth you may not realise it was there and in the early stages of dental disease, many dogs or cats will not show any signs other than bad breath which is also known as halitosis. As the disease progresses your pet may show other signs such as pawing at their mouth, excessive dribbling, reluctance to allow their mouth to be touched, reduction in appetite, backing away from food (especially in cats), favouring softer food over hard, reluctance to groom (especially cats), bleeding gums and swelling over their face.
So what causes dental disease?
Well the simple answer is bacteria, bacteria and more bacteria! We all have bacteria in our mouths but as humans when we eat, more bacteria will occur and a sticky film coats our teeth of which we remove by brushing our teeth twice daily and using mouthwash etc.
So if we don’t brush our furry friend’s teeth the sticky film remains on their teeth, this soft plaque combined with saliva, food deposits and minerals form calculus. This starts to irritate the gums causing inflammation known as gingivitis. Gingivitis is easily visible in your dog or cats month, it is the reddening of the gums around the tooth and is reversible at this stage if the calculus is removed. If the calculus is not removed then it will start to build up under the gum line, causing the tooth to become separated from the gum. These pockets allow more bacteria along with food to accumulate in them. The gum will then start to recess causing more of the tooth to become exposed and eventually the root, the periodontal ligament holding the tooth in place, becomes inflamed and infected often resulting in a loose tooth, and this is known as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is not only irreversible, but it is also very painful. At this stage both dogs and cats will be swallowing the nasty bacteria from their teeth which in turn can affect other organs. The only way to treat dental disease is for your pet to see the vet for scale and polish, this is similar to you attending the hygienist however dogs and cats will require a general anaesthetic to have this done. Once anaesthetised the vet can have a good look in your pets mouth, give all of the teeth a scale, remove any that are too diseased and polish the remaining. In some cases an x-ray will be taken so that the roots of the teeth can be evaluated.
So is dental disease preventable? Absolutely, prevention is always better than cure. Make sure you get your pets teeth checked regularly. At Wylies our nurses run dental clinics, so do book in to discuss your pet’s mouth. The nurses will also be able to show you how to brush your pet’s teeth. Regular brushing is one of the best ways to prevent dental disease. Make sure you use a dog and cat friendly toothpaste as human ones often contain products that can be poisonous to our furry members of the family. If your dog is young get him or her used to doing this at an early age so it becomes part of their routine. Most dogs tolerate this really well, cat’s will depending on their personality of course! Dental chews can help although some of these can be quite high in fat and in some cases a diet change may help keep your dog and cat having lovely pearly whites!
Of course our team will be happy to discuss the importance of diets too. If you would like more information or you would like your pets teeth checked please contact us on 01708251200. Our nurse clinics run seven days a week.