Maybe it’s time to examine your pet’s mouth a little closer…
o you brush your teeth every day? Don’t worry, there’s no need to answer out aloud. It’s probably safe to say, though, that most people understand the importance of good oral hygiene for themselves. But interestingly, many don’t convey the same importance to their dog or cat’s teeth. Try not brushing your teeth for several years and, well, let’s just say that maybe it’s time to examine your pet’s mouth a little closer.
r Natasha Watts, Veterinarian at Bayside Mobile Vet, explains that our furry companions’ (hopefully) pearly whites need similar care to our own. ‘Without regular maintenance, plaque and tartar accumulate and mineralise, eventually leading to periodontal disease, gum recession and bone loss,’ she points out. Periodontal disease refers to inflammation and/or infection of the tissue surrounding the tooth.
Infection isn’t necessarily limited to the mouth and teeth, adds Dr Tash. ‘Bacteria can travel to other parts of the body through the blood vessels. In animals with weakened immune systems, like older or sick pets, this can add to their debilitation. Advanced cases can even – albeit rarely – lead to endocarditis, a serious condition where the inner lining of the heart and heart valves becomes inflamed.’
“Without regular maintenance, plaque and tartar accumulate and mineralise, eventually leading to periodontal disease, gum recession and bone loss.”
Loss of bone around the tooth, can lead to instability and the tooth falling out, she continues. ‘Sometimes the majority of the animal’s teeth are affected and we can’t do anything to save them. It’s not a pretty sight when it reaches this stage.’
Recognising dental disease can be difficult as pets often don’t display any signs, even when the dental disease has progressed significantly. ‘Sometimes they might show a bit of discomfort when eating but it often goes unnoticed – animals are really quite stoic. That’s why we stress to owners that they need to be vigilant about checking their pet’s teeth. We want to see healthy pink gums that cover the teeth evenly – reddening or erosion of the gum border confirms the presence of gingivitis and plaque. Tartar is even easier to spot and bad breath is another giveaway. Our vets routinely perform oral examinations during consultations and vaccinations so we can show you what to look for.’
he best scenario, of course, is for a clean bill of dental health. ‘If that isn’t the case, then hopefully we’ve caught it early enough so it’s easily treated with a Grade 1 dental scale and polish, and no extractions are necessary,’ Dr Tash adds. ‘Once there’s evidence of dental disease, no matter how mild, professional cleaning is the only effective treatment. This can be followed by prophylactic measures such as dental foods, chews and liquids.’
However, she stresses, the best method of prevention is – yes, you guessed it – regular brushing. ‘People laugh when we tell them but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Use as toothpaste specially formulated for dogs and cats rather than the human variety, which can be toxic to animals. Pet toothbrushes are also cheap and make life much easier.’