Does your pooch have dog breath? It’s quite possible that they have bad teeth! Up to 80% percent of pets will have dental disease during their life. This can start from as early as 2-3 years of age for some animals. Both dogs and cats can often suffer in silence as pets will commonly continue to eat despite having sore gums. Often people think it is due to a lack of a good diet, or from feeding soft food but we now know that dental disease is mainly genetic. Many breeds of dog are prone to dental disease, most particularly terrier breeds and other small dogs like Chihuahuas, Poodles, Dachsunds and Maltese, as well as sighthound type dogs like lurchers and greyhounds, but all dogs can develop dental problems.
Dental disease often develops as tartar builds up on the surfaces of the teeth. This carries a lot of bacteria and makes the gums and cheeks red and sore, which is called gingivitis. If left for some time the gums will recede, weakening the attachment between the gum and the tooth, leading to loose and painful teeth. Diseased teeth can also get infected which is again very painful, although animals often don’t show signs of mouth pain until it is very severe. Unlike people, dogs and cats don’t often get cavities but they can develop other problems like tooth root infections from broken teeth or cats can get resorptive lesions that are very painful.
Dental care for your pet…
Are bones good for teeth?
This question is often asked, and the answer is No! Bones, uncooked, cooked or otherwise are too hard for our pets to chew. Dogs often break their teeth on bones, meaning a painful broken tooth often has to be removed. Antler chews are also popular but are also far too hard for dogs to chew on.
The ‘Rule of ‘Thumb’
If you are unsure if a chew is too hard to give your dog you can check by seeing if you can make a dent in it with a thumbnail. if you can make a visible dent then it’s soft enough, if not then it’s too hard and not safe to give.
There are of course things that can be done to both prevent and treat dental problems.
Prevention of dental disease
Teeth brushing, as strange as it may sound, is the best way of preventing dental disease in pets. If brushing is introduced gently both dogs and cats can accept dental brushing. Few pets really enjoy it so as long as the animal is not getting distressed (or trying to bite) then it is worthwhile persevering with teeth brushing to prevent tartar buildup. Pet toothpaste is used on the finger or on a fingerbrush to gently rub the outside surfaces of the dog or cats teeth. A toothbrush can also be used but pets are often more accepting of a thimble-type fingerbrush.
Special food for your dog’s dental care?
If pets do not tolerate brushing the next best thing is a food that is specifically designed to help prevent tartar. Hill’s VetEssentials is an excellent quality food that we stock in all out clinics. The kibble is specially designed to have a brushing action when the tooth goes into the kibble.
What about dental sticks?
Dental sticks (while they do often have excellent marketing campaigns) have little evidence to show they do much good at preventing dental disease. While dog’s may enjoy eating them they are often made of poor quality ingredients and may contribute to weight gain. They are certainly not necessary as part of your pets diet.
Treatment of dental disease
When your pet is examined by a vet they will check their teeth. If we find a problem we may recommend a ‘Dental‘. What we mean by that is a dental procedure, done under a general anaesthetic, to fully examine, descale and polish your pet’s teeth. If the dental disease is more advanced we may find teeth that are diseased. It may be necessary to extract teeth if they are very diseased and therefore likely to be causing pain.
Why is a General Anaesthetic necessary?
Dental procedures are safest for both the pet and the vet done under a general anaesthetic. When under an anaesthetic a tube is placed in the windpipe to allow the animal to breathe and prevent any water entering the lungs. If an animal is not asleep enough it is often unsafe to look in their mouth properly and problems may be missed. A nurse monitors the anaesthetic throughout and if any problems arise will alert the vet.
A vet will examine the pets mouth and note any problems. If any extractions are necessary the vet will do this. We use local anaesthetic just like human dentists to help control pain during and after the procedure. Sometimes a ‘surgical extraction’ may be necessary where the gums are stitched after the tooth is taken out. The vet or a Registered Veterinary Nurse will descale and polish the teeth.
If you are concerned that your pet might have a problem with their teeth you can book them in for a check with our vets.