Dental disease is the most common disease seen in dogs and cats- more common than any other diseases, including those of ears, eyes, skin or heart. And it gets worse- more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop dental disease by the age of three (according to the Australian and American Veterinary Dental Societies).
These are scary facts that make us think hard, when we last had a look into our dog’s or cat’s mouth.
What are common signs of dental disease in pets? In most cases owners will notice bad smelling breath during cuddle time. A lot of times, especially when bad teeth go undiscovered for some time, you may notice your furry friend only chewing on one side or leaving the dry food in the bowl, because it’s too painful to chew. In cats, a mess around the dinner bowl is often an indicator of dental disease, as they are trying to get food down despite sore teeth and often shake their heads during feeding or spit out bits that are hard to chew. Your dog may not be as keen as usual to chew on his/her bones or eat anything hard.
When you actually have a closer look inside your pet’s mouth you may find inflamed gums and a build-up of plaque and tartar to various degrees- these are also typical signs of dental disease and mostly start at the upper canines. In worse cases you find broken or even rotten teeth, mainly at the back of the mouth.
So why is dental disease in pets so bad? For starters, it causes a great deal of pain and discomfort- imagine what you would feel like, if you had not brushed your teeth in years and now there was a thick layer of plaque and severe inflammation of your gums- and you were trying to eat an apple or a bag of crisps with sharp little pieces that poke into your inflamed gums. Not a very pleasant thought….
On top of that, plaque and tartar contain a multitude of bacteria and toxins that can lead to infections of internal organs- like the kidneys, the heart or the liver. Infections can also invade the jaw bones and lead to painful fractures of the jaw and fistulas into the nasal cavity.
So now we get worried, have a good look into our pet’s mouth and discover signs of dental disease- what do we do?
Book your pet in at the clinic for a dental check up (at Cheltenham Vet Clinic dental checks are free of charge!)- Your vet will tell you how bad the teeth are and what the next steps are.
If the signs of inflammation and plaque built up are very mild, your vet may suggest to start daily dental care at home first- this can involve daily brushing, a change to specific dental food, drinking water additives, bones etc- all these things are also great for prevention of dental disease
If your pet is suffering from moderate to severe dental disease, your vet will most likely suggest a dental work up under general anesthetic- which involves thorough cleaning of all teeth with an ultrasound scalar, removal of all plaque and tartar and if necessary extraction of teeth that cannot be saved.
The recovery from dental procedures under anesthetic is generally very quick (24-48 hours) and most owners notice a big difference in their pet’s activity levels, appetite and of course- the breath immediately.
Now that the teeth are clean and we know what to look out for, annual dental checks with your vet and preventative care are essential to avoid bad teeth and the nasty side effects all together- and to give our beloved furry friends a long and happy life.
Have you booked your pet for a free dental check yet?