Looking after your dog or cat's teeth will keep your pet healthy. Studies in veterinary practice show that periodontal or gum disease exists in over 85% of pet dogs and cats over two years of age.
How can I tell if my pet needs dental care?
Unlike humans, animals often show no dental pain even though they may have severe gum disease or even rotting teeth. A bad smell on the animal’s breath is often the first thing you (or a house guest!) may notice. Weight loss, poor appetite and general lethargy and ill health are often the reasons we see what turns out to be dental disease. In really bad cases, more specific signs include yelping when eating, or excessive licking of lips. Pus may even be discharged from the gums or break out onto the face just below the eye (malar abscess).
In such cases, a close examination of the mouth, especially the outside of the back and upper teeth (premolars and molars) usually reveals a thick covering of tartar (brown in colour) on the teeth, pus around teeth and gum ulceration and recession. All of this damages the periodontal ligament causing loose or missing teeth. Pus and poisons can enter the blood stream, will circulate throughout the body leading to general ill health.
Periodontal disease is a slow and insidious disease that can be hard to detect, especially if there are no dramatic symptoms. It is commonly misdiagnosed by the owner as part of the ‘ageing process’.
Management and treatment options
Some breeds are more susceptible than others, and where the milk teeth remain, trapped food particles will set the cycle in motion. Check your pet's teeth regularly as part of playtime. This will let you see the front teeth easily, but the back teeth (molars) require more patience.
You can help prevent tartar build up using dry food and chewies, but these will not remove pre-existing tartar. We include a full clinical mouth exam during your pet's annual health check and use a special torchlight which shows up tartar.
Where there is a health risk we can descale, polish and extract teeth under general anaesthetic. There are certain foods that can then be used to help prevent the recurrence of tartar, and some patients can even be trained to accept brushing about twice weekly in order to prevent recurrence.
If you are concerned about your pet’s dental health, come along and see the vet. A clinical exam of the gums and teeth is the best starting place to advise you about caring for your animal’s teeth long term.