Did you know that dental disease is one of the most common health issues in dogs and cats? In fact, dental disease can undermine your pet’s good health and can be very painful and expensive.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gingival soft tissues surrounding the teeth which is common in dogs and cats. Not only are the teeth at risk, but also the bacterial infection and resultant pain. By the age of three, approximately 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will have some form of gum disease.
Bacteria combine with the soup of saliva and food at the junction between the tooth and gums and form plaque. Gingivitis is caused by the accumulation of this plaque. The plaque grows on the tooth and, as the bacteria continue to proliferate, calcium salts combine with the plaque. These calcium salts form concrete-like tartar to develop on the teeth, leading to periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease causes red swollen, tender gums, salivation and sometimes difficulty eating. The gums often recede and bleeding is common. Pain occurs when the animal eats and it may not eat properly due to the discomfort. Eventually tooth loss occurs as infection destroys the bone around the gum. The bacteria are also continually absorbed into the pet’s body and can cause heart, liver, kidney and lung disease.
Only professional cleaning by your veterinarian can remove tartar once it forms and prevent dental disease. The rate at which your pet builds tartar and develops dental disease depends on your pet’s own body chemistry. It varies from pet to pet and small dogs are particularly prone to dental disease. Bad breath, yellow-brown teeth, barnacle-like textured teeth, and irritated gums are all signs of dental disease. If you observe any of these signs, consult your veterinarian for a dental health checkup.
Care for your pet's oral hygiene should start early if you want to prevent gingivitis. The simple task is to keep your pet's teeth clean. Regrettably most pet owners neglect this important part of pet care.
Prevention is easier than treatment and that starts with a well-balanced dry food, and for dogs the regular use of chew toys, made of hard rubber, nylon or rawhide. The active chewing gives the dog's teeth and gums a good workout and helps to remove plaque that is developing. Brushing your pet's teeth is also an excellent idea with a variety of pet toothbrushes and pet toothpastes now available.
There are also foods available with unique and specially formulated kibble to clean your pet's teeth by removing plaque and tartar with every bite, in addition to prescription canine and feline diets which have been proven to reduce plaque and tartar as part of a veterinary supervised oral hygiene regime. These prescription diets are available from your veterinarian and are intended for use following professional cleaning and tooth scaling. Tooth scaling is usually done under anaesthetic, as animals don’t tolerate the manipulations needed to scale the teeth. Ultrasonic dental scalers are usually used and the result is a set of sparkling, pearly white teeth. If periodontal disease is present then some teeth may need to be removed. After the cleaning, a home dental care program will keep the pet's teeth in good condition.