Dental diseases and your pet
Periodontal disease affects 4 out of 5 pets. It is the most common disease seen in cats and dogs. It can be a silent disease to most pet owners, as many signs go unnoticed and develop quickly. If you think about it, humans brush their teeth twice a day, every day, for their entire life. When was the last time your pet cleaned their teeth?!
Prevention is much better than treatment, so it is always best to understand your pets oral health and implement a plan to keep their teeth pearly white and breath fresh!
What is dental disease?
There are a few things that make up dental disease in dogs and cats. The most common one is plaque and tartar build up. Plaque forms on the teeth as a mixture of saliva, food and bacteria, which then hardens and continues to build, eventually leading to tartar. This is the dark, gunky layer you see on your pet’s teeth, mostly near their gum line.
Gingivitis is also commonly seen in animals, and means inflammation of the gum. As the plaque and tartar build, bacteria inflames the gum line which can cause discomfort to your pet.
In more severe cases, there can also be tooth root exposure which can become very painful. As the gum line recedes due to inflammation and infection, the root of the tooth becomes exposed and pockets form where food and other debris can hide, worsening the situation. In these cases, these teeth are best to be removed under a general anaesthetic.
Cats can develop what is call a resorptive lesions. This occur in over 50% of adult cats and cannot be prevented. Essentially, it involves the breakdown of the tooth into the jaw bone, which is extremely painful and unfortunately irreversible. The lesions occur along the gingival margin and often extend below the gum line, meaning they can only be accurately diagnosed with radiographs. Where resorptive lesions are present, it is recommended the tooth be extracted.
Signs your pet is suffering from dental disease
There are a few signs you can keep an eye out for with your pet that point towards dental disease. Your pets teeth are checked at every annual vaccination by our veterinarian, but if at any point you are concerned, one of our Veterinary Nurses can perform a complimentary dental check! Here are a few signs to look out for:
- Bad breath
- Not eating, but showing interest in food
- Chewing on one side of their mouth only
- Blood in the water or food bowl
- Swollen sides of face
- Pawing at the mouth
- Reduced/abnormal grooming habits
- Chattering teeth
Dental scale and polish – What’s involved?
If your pet has been diagnosed with dental disease, we recommend a COHAT procedure – Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment. Your furry friend stays with us for the day and goes under a general anaesthetic. Once asleep, we’re about to have a really good look inside your pets’ mouth and check for any fractures, root exposure, gum recession and pockets. If everything looks straight forward, but a little bit dirty, we scale the teeth using our Ultra Sonic scaler. This device uses high pressured water to blast the tartar off the teeth and under the gum line. Once clean, we polish the teeth just like us humans get at the dentist. This removes any scratches on the surface of the teeth that can be made by the scaler, smoothing the enamel to reduce tartar build up. Before and after photos are taken for us to show you, and your pet is woken up in the arms of one of our Veterinary Nurses.
If we find some abnormalities in your animals’ mouth, we perform a set of full mouth radiographs. We have a special dental x-ray machine and small plates that show us the health of the of the jaw bone and base of the root. Any teeth that are deteriorating are surgically removed by our veterinarian and the gum pockets closed. We make sure you pet has plenty of pain relief on board, and they go home with a short course of anti-inflammatories to help the healing process.
Dental Disease Prevention
There are a number of ways you can reduce the risk of dental disease in your pet. The easiest way is to implement a special diet and treat regime. Hills Prescription Diet T/D food specifically targets dental health through the structure of the biscuit. They are large, fibrous biscuits that your pet has to chew multiple times, and the fibrous structure strips any plaque buildup on the teeth.
There are many dental treats available for cats and dogs, such as Greenies and Dentastix. These need to be give regularly (daily basis) and work much the same as the dental food. They animal has to chew on the treat, cleaning the teeth as they work on finishing it.
You can also clean your cat or dogs teeth using a special toothbrush and animal toothpaste. The toothbrush is a small rubber cap that fits onto the end of your finger and you light brush their teeth. You should never use human toothpaste as this can aggravate their mouths and burn. Pet friendly toothpaste comes in yummy flavours such as chicken or beef. This should be done daily, and with some positive training can become very enjoyable for your pet!
For some animals, it is difficult to implement any treatments like those above at home. They may be older with less teeth to chew, or picky eaters. In these cases, it is best to have regular dental work under general anaesthesia. This is perfectly safe to be done on an annual basis, and means we can keep a close eye on your animals teeth and document any changes we see along the way.
What to do
If you’d like to know more about your animals oral health, give us a call on 02 9416 1300 to make an appointment with one of our Veterinary Nurses for a complimentary dental health check. Or click the button below to make an appointment online.