Over 85% of dogs and cats over 4 years old have some form of periodontal (dental) disease. Dental disease causes bad breath (halitosis) and pain, it is also a source of infection and can make your pet seriously ill.
Dental disease is preventable in the vast majority of cases and in most cases, easy to achieve at home. There are many different methods to keep your pet's "pearly white" teeth and these should be started while they are puppies and kittens.
For adult cats and dogs with existing dental disease, a dental treatment with a scale and polish under general anaesthetic is often necessary to get their mouth back into top condition. This will allow us to start prevention with a clean mouth and hoping to prevent, or slow down dental disease developing again in the future.
What goes wrong?
As with our own teeth, plaque WILL develop even on the cleanest of teeth. If this plaque is not removed it will soon become mineralized tartar or calculus. Your pet's teeth will then become chronically inflamed and in turn the teeth and gums will begin to separate.
Once this separation has occurred the tooth is in serious trouble and without proper attention may become rotten and eventually fall out. A severely inflamed mouth proves to be a real drain on the body's immune system and can have harmful and damaging effects on the body as a whole; such as tooth root abscesses, bone, kidney and heart disease (Osteomyelitis, Pyelonephritis and Endocarditis).
What are some of the signs of dental disease?
- Bad breath
- Discoloured teeth
- Loose teeth
- Excessive drooling, sometimes blood stained
- Inflamed gums
- Dropping of food from the mouth when eating, or reluctant to eat at all, especially hard food.
- Pain when handled around the head
- Facial swelling
- Behavioural changes (e.g. lethargy, increased aggression)
veterinary dental treatment
A dental treatment involves a general anaesthetic. While under anaesthetic a full dental examination can be conducted along with dental charting, scaling of the teeth, both ultrasonically and by hand. We complete the treatment by giving the teeth a polish to reduce plaque adherence.
If necessary teeth are extracted (removed), however our objective is always to save as many teeth as we can. In some cases x-rays may also be necessary to check the health of the tooth's root.
Aftercare varies according to the individual, but always involves pain relief and home care advice, it may also include antibiotics and other medications.
We can even arrange for more advanced dental work such as endodontics, crowns, root canals and orthodontics to be carried out by a Veterinary Dental Specialist.
If your pet does have veterinary dental treatment it is important to then provide good homecare to try and prevent or minimise further work being done in the future.
Brushing your pet's teeth
Brushing your pet's teeth daily can help control plaque build up and prevent periodontal disease.
Select a toothbrush
- Choose a soft toothbrush only
- Toddler brushes are great for small dogs and cats
- Dog and Cat toothbrushes are available at the clinic
- Electric toothbrushes are easy to use and more efficient. Your pet may be frightened by the noise and will need to be trained to accept this.
- Make sure you label your pet's toothbrush and keep it separate from the family toothbrushes!
Select a toothpaste
Do not use human toothpaste when brushing your pet's teeth as your pet may swallow it. Human toothpaste is not designed to be swallowed and has ingredients that can upset your pet's stomach.
Pet toothpaste is chicken or beef flavoured which may help your pet accept it. Pet toothpaste is also safe if it is swallowed. Sometimes our pets will like the toothpaste too much!! In this case we may suggest dipping the toothbrush in an oral rinse instead.
Introduce your pet to teeth brushing
Cats and small dogs may feel more comfortable if they can sit on their owners lap while having their teeth brushed.
- Begin slowly, initial sessions should be brief, a minute or two and well rewarded.
- Get your pet used to the toothbrush by dipping it in tuna juice, chicken or beef stock or just use water.
- Next try offering the toothbrush with the paste, without brushing. Allow your pet to taste the paste.
- When your pet is comfortable with the brush try brushing one or two strokes on a few teeth. Slowly increase the amount of brushing as your pet becomes more comfortable.
- Start at the front of the mouth. Pets are often more accepting of this.
Using a toothbrush
The toothbrush bristles should be placed at the gum margin where the teeth and gums meet at a 45 degree angle. The movement should be in an oval pattern. Be sure to gently force the bristle ends into the area around the base of the tooth as well as into the space between the teeth.
Using a finger brush
Other alternatives to brushing
While brushing is referred to as the ‘gold standard' in home dental care, it is sometimes not possible due to the personality of your pet, or the amount of spare time you have each day. Listed below are some other alternatives.
We DO NOT encourage the feeding of bones as they can splinter and cause intestinal damage.
Treats and Chews
Large hard products such as pig's ears, noses or trotters, rawhide bones and Dentabones encourage your pets to chew. The chewing action aids in the removal of plaque via physical rubbing and the spread of protective saliva. These should not be relied on solely for dental prevention.
Hills t/d is a dry food available for both cats and dogs. It is designed to keep pets teeth clean, while still providing them with a complete balanced diet. Each piece of kibble is larger than usual, specifically designed to encourage and stimulate chewing. It also has a special fibre matrix within each biscuit which aids in the breakdown of plaque. For best results Hills t/d needs to be fed daily, it is a very palatable food, but if your pet is too fussy to enjoy it there is a money back guarantee. Hills t/d is only available at veterinary clinics. The proportion of t/d used for your pet's diet will vary according to the severity and persistence of their dental problems.
There are some toys available which are again great at encouraging your dog to chew. Some of these toys include the Kong (conventional Kong pictured) and Gumabone. Toys are a useful addition to a dental hygiene program, however they should not be relied on solely.
Oral and dental treatments
For pets with severe or persistent dental and gum disease or bad breath using a rinse or gel such as Orivet, Maxiguard or Hexarinse may be advisable. Gum protectant applications such as Oravet may also be prescribed for pets with problem gums.