Pet dental health: Why it’s so important to the health and well-being of your best friend…
Why do I need to look after my pet’s teeth?
Your Pet’s dental health is so important because they are not able to do things like brushing and flossing that as humans we take as hygiene basics.
We know that without these, we’ll have really bad breath and probably have some painful and costly decay happening in the near future. Our pets are no different.
They need to have their teeth looked after, and to have regular dental checks with us so any small issues can be picked up sooner rather than later.
Poor dental health can result in long term problems and pain for pets. Mouth infections can also cause infection elsewhere in the body as bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel elsewhere.
In some circumstances, it can even be responsible for heart, kidney, liver and lung infections.
Won’t I know when my pet is in pain and needs some help?
Our pets are very good at hiding any pain they feel, and the way they show this – tiredness, aggression, slowing down – can often be mistaken for the normal ageing process. It’s therefore really important to keep an eye on what’s going on in their mouths to prevent not only pain, but also to stop any issues from occurring before they go on to cause permanent damage.
If you have your pet from a young age it really helps to get them used to having their mouths looked at right from the start. Once a week gently encourage them to let you in for a quick look and reward them with lots of fuss for being obliging.
Teeth brushing can be introduced then too.
What are the signs of a dental problem in my pet?
One of the most common signs – and is often the reason owners bring their pet in for a dental check-up – is bad breath. If your pet is happy for you to do it, you can look inside their mouth to see if there are any visible signs of infection or decay, but it’s often easier if your vet and a trained nurse do this for you!
Another visible sign that your pet needs some help is a tartar build-up. This is a hard brown substance that can be seen where the teeth join the gum, and it then builds up from there. It’s caused by plaque on the teeth going hard. Tartar causes gum inflammation and a red and sore mouth that can bleed easily. This leads on to dental disease, infection and a destruction of the tooth and tissues around it. Eventually, the tooth will loosen and either fall out or need to be surgically removed.
Signs that your dog might have disease can be a change in the way they eat, for example eating slowly, with their head on one side, eating on one side of the mouth only or refusing biscuits and hard food. They might also lose weight and generally show signs that they aren’t thriving. These are
also signs cats exhibit, but other clues include a deterioration in the quality of their coat where they stop grooming themselves as well due to the pain in their mouths.
If you suspect any dental problems, you should come and see us so we can stop it getting worse and help with the pain as soon as possible. Situations only get more serious for the pet, and more complicated and expensive. Unfortunately, pet insurance often doesn’t cover dental problems so it’s much better to sort out a small problem that a large one.
What happens when I bring my pet in for a dental check-up?
We will talk to you about the general health of your pet as well as performing an oral examination. By doing a general check-up we’re looking for signs of secondary problems caused by any dental issues, and to ensure they are well enough for a general anaesthetic should any work need to be carried out.
We will look for tartar and any gum redness, swelling and infection. If this is identified then the dental disease will also be checked for as well as any gum recession or overgrowing, which are common secondary problems to disease. Gum swelling is sometimes also due to a lump forming which is either benign (and more common in some particular breeds), or a more serious tumour.
Cats have specific problems which will be checked for. Unfortunately, it is very common for them to develop erosions of their teeth – called lesions – and these can be very painful and hard for an owner to detect. They are caused by the cat’s own immune system attacking the enamel of the teeth and causing holes in them.
Pets can develop holes in their teeth in the same way we can, and these can cause infection and be really painful. Tooth fractures are also common. These are easy to spot if some tooth is missing, but if there’s a crack that extends to the nerve pulp then this is only visible by Xray and will be causing significant pain.
Less common problems include milk teeth not falling out or falling out late resulting in adult teeth growing through in the wrong place, and misaligned jaws which can cause problems if they result in teeth digging into the palate.
How can I help keep my pet’s teeth healthy?
One simple way you can help your pet is through their diet.
In the wild where they hunt and kill, their teeth are naturally cleaned by chewing on bones and hard body parts. For this reason, cats who like the odd mouse or rabbit as a supplement to their diet sometimes have better teeth than those animals who chose not to hunt. As hunting is no longer their natural way of eating, our domesticated animals would struggle if you were to introduce bones to their diet though. Cooked bones can splinter and cause serious problems in their mouths, throats and guts, and raw bones can result in stomach upsets and enamel chipping as well as splintering.
There are some dental chews available for dogs that can be effective at plaque removal, although these don’t work if your dog has already developed tartar and dental disease. They can also be quite rich, so only give them occasionally and make sure they aren’t too big for your pet. You don’t want to replace dental concerns with diarrhoea!
For pets, a biscuit diet is best as chewing on these can help safely replicate the benefits of gnawing on bones and tissue. Wet food also tends to stick to teeth which can cause plaque and subsequently tartar.
There are some pet foods specifically designed to encourage oral health, so do speak to us if you’d like to know more.
Tooth brushing is the most effective way to prevent dental problems as long as it’s started before any conditions occur. You will need to use a pet toothpaste as ours would be harmful to them, and they also prefer a meaty flavour! You can use baby toothbrush – either a standard one or one that you put on your finger – or we have other options that might suit you better.
If your pet already has some inflammation or other dental problems then wait until the treatment has been completed and their mouth is no longer sore before resuming or starting brushing.
The best way to make sure your pet remains in good health is by coming to see us at least twice a year for a check-up so we can ensure their teeth remain gleaming.
If there are any issues identified at your check-ups we can get on to them straight away and stop your pet suffering, but also save you money. It’s much cheaper to have a quick scale and polish than have lengthy and painful extractions done and infection treated.
Remember that if you’re a member of our Woolton VIP club, keeping on top of dental health is much easier to budget for throughout the year.
Your small monthly payments INCLUDE two check-ups a year as well as 10% discount on ALL consults, food and dental procedures should they need them.
You can join the plan and start benefitting (and saving!) today
Click here to find out more, join safely and securely online, and start benefitting today.