How brushing your pets teeth could save their life
- by DR Roxanne Jones
Have you ever wondered why humans need to brush their teeth twice a day? Well aside from wanting white, sparkly teeth, we brush to prevent periodontal disease. And even though this is routine for us, we may forget about our beloved pet’s dental health. Like us, dogs and cats are vulnerable to periodontal disease and it can become life threatening if it’s left untreated.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a common type of dental health problem that affects roughly 80% of pet dogs and 70% of pet cats at some stage in their lifetime. It all starts when plaque builds up around the structure of their teeth, which is a natural process. The problem arises when plaque, which is made up of salivary proteins and bacteria, is not regularly removed. The bacteria in plaque that have gathered around their teeth can cause gum irritation and inflammation, which is an infection called gingivitis. Eventually, the plaque that has built up will harden and turn into calculus, also known as tartar. The rough surface of calculus allows for more plaque to build up. Unfortunately, the more plaque that builds up, the worse the infection can get.
Although there are many health problems that periodontal disease can cause in your dog and cat, the most common symptom is bad breath. It can be quite easy to detect this symptom when your fur friend jumps up to give you a loving lick in the face and you are bombarded with a stinky breath. Just keep in mind that periodontal disease is not the only cause of bad breath. If your pet has severe bad breath or if there has been a sudden change in their breath you should consult your vet. There are some serious illnesses that could cause bad breath, like mouth infections, cancer in the mouth or jaw, diabetes and kidney failure.
Periodontal disease can also cause some serious problems such as tooth loss and pain. Some of the more serious illnesses caused by this nasty disease include infection of the jaw bone and spread of the bacteria to the liver, kidneys or other organs which could be life threatening and would require immediate attention from your vet.
How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
Thankfully, this disease is entirely preventable. All you need to do is brush your beloved pet’s teeth daily using a toothbrush and toothpaste that is suitable for a dog or cat. Brushing teeth removes plaque, which helps to reduce the inflammation in their mouth and restores gum health. By daily brushing of your pet’s teeth and regular vet exams, you can provide your precious pet with a lifetime of fresh breath and clean teeth.
Many types of human toothpastes have Xylitol in them as it’s harmless to humans, but be very careful not to give this to your dog because it’s extremely poisonous to dogs. So make sure to use pet specific toothpastes.
As well as brushing your fur friend’s teeth, they should be fed premium veterinary diets because the pellets have a gentle, abrasive effect that cleans their teeth as they chew the food. You can also encourage them to chew toys such as Dental Kong or feed them chews such as Greenies which will help to reduce plaque build up. You may also want to avoid feeding them wet food as it tends to stick to their teeth and can add to the plaque build up. Water additives such as “Fresh Breath” may also help to reduce bad breath and the formation of plaque.
Treatment of Periodontal Disease
If plaque build up is still in the early stages of causing gum inflammation, brushing your fur friend’s teeth daily can remove plaque and the gingivitis should reduce on its own. Once plaque has hardened and become calculus, professional veterinary cleaning and extraction of severely affected teeth will be necessary. This involves placing your pet under general anaesthetic, which comes with some risks. Your vet will do everything they can to minimise the risks to your much-loved pet.