It has become clear that pet owners may not fully understand the importance of regular preventive dental care for their pets. According to Canada’s Pet Wellness Report, veterinarians say periodontal (dental) disease is the most commonly diagnosed health problem that pet owners are surprised to hear about.
Dental disease is the most common disease seen in dogs and cats. In fact, estimates show that by the age of three nearly 80 percent of dogs and cats show some signs of periodontal disease. That’s a frightening number, especially when you consider that dental disease is totally preventable with routine care and cleaning.
Cat and Dog Dental disease can affect a pet’s entire body
The effects of dental disease are first seen in the mouth, but it doesn’t stop there. Bacteria and infection from the gums can eventually pass through the blood and spread through your pet’s entire body causing many serious health issues. It can have a huge impact on your pet’s quality of life and even shorten the lifespan of your pet.
As dental disease progresses it can lead to serious problems like:
- Tooth and bone loss
- Gum disease
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- Kidney disease
What are the causes of cat and dog dental disease?
Clean teeth are just as important to pets as they are to people. We brush our teeth every day to remove the food particles and bacteria in our mouths, but do you brush your pet’s teeth?
Your pet’s teeth need cleaning, just like yours do. Without regular brushing or cleaning, dental disease will develop.
The mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. Plaque sticks to your pet’s teeth and eventually hardens into tartar. Bacteria and tartar also spread below the gum line causing tissue damage, infection, gum recession, and tooth loss. As the condition progresses, the bacteria and infection spread into the bloodstream and are carried throughout the body causing organ disease.
Do you know the symptoms of dental disease?
Bad breath is usually the first sign of dental disease. While many pet parents believe that “doggy breath” is normal, that simply isn’t true. Your pet’s bad breath is caused by a build-up of unhealthy plaque and bacteria in the mouth – and that leads to dental disease.
Living with the constant pain of dental disease can affect your pet’s behavior and lead to personality changes. Pets suffering from dental disease may paw at their mouths or shy away from touch near the mouth.
With increasing mouth pain, pets with dental disease may find it more difficult to eat. They may begin chewing on one side of the mouth where teeth are less painful. Or they may begin swallowing food without chewing, which can lead to a variety of digestive problems. Your pet may also begin eating less and experience weight loss.
When you look at your pet’s gum line, check for signs of plaque and tartar buildup.
Give your pet proper dental care
Dental disease can be prevented with routine dental care. Here’s what you can do to protect your pet.
- Annual dental exams – Have your veterinarian check your pet’s teeth at least once a year. Most of the tooth lies below the gum line so x-rays may be needed to check for periodontal disease.
- Regular brushing – Brushing your pet’s teeth daily, or at least three times a week, will keep the mouth healthy and clean. Fluoride is toxic to pets so never use human toothpaste to brush your pet’s teeth. The detergents in human toothpaste are also irritating and will likely cause vomiting, as your pet is unable to spit the toothpaste residue into the sink.
- Try dental wipes and finger brushes – Many pets dislike having their teeth brushed, and an uncooperative pet makes brushing difficult. If your pet is resistant to brushing, dental wipes or soft finger brushes may be more successful.
- Dental diets – For pets who refuse to co-operate with having their teeth cleaned, some excellent dental diets are available that really do work. Most kibbles turn to mush when chewed. However, dental kibble retains its crustiness and acts as a gentle abrasive to clean all exposed parts of the teeth. They are a superb alternative to daily brushing.
- Give dental treats and chews – Your pet can help clean its own teeth just by enjoying a tasty snack! The special texture of dental treats, toys, and chews will help remove plaque and tartar as your pet chews.
- Water additives and dental washes – These products may be added directly to your pet’s drinking water to help kill bacteria and keep the mouth clean.
- Dental cleanings – If tartar has built up, your veterinarian may need to remove it with a thorough dental cleaning that may be done under anesthesia.
- Toothbrush training – Ideally, the best time to get your pets used to brushing is when they are very young. Using an infant’s toothbrush, gently brush the outside of their teeth with just warm water daily, followed by a reward. When they are adults and really need the brushing, they will be far more willing.
Dental disease can be deadly, but with the proper care it is entirely preventable. With proper dental care your pet will enjoy a better quality of life and you’ll enjoy more happy years together.