You’ve shed the January blues, the weather’s getting ever so slightly warmer and guess what? It’s also National Pet Dental Health Month. Why should you pay attention? It’s simple really: because if your pet’s breath smells bad, they could have dental disease.
We know the importance of our own dental health. We wouldn’t dream of setting off for work in the morning without first cleaning our teeth and rightly so. For our pets, the exact same rules ought to apply; it’s important to look after our pets’ teeth, ensuring good health and freedom from disease and decay.
What is Dental Disease?
Dental disease begins with a small amount of plaque (formed of salivary deposits, bacteria and food particles) forming on the tooth’s surface. If ignored, this can build up to form dental tartar (calculus), which in turn can cause marked gum disease and inflammation, leading to an array of pleasant conditions including gum recession, tooth root exposure and decay of the periodontal ligament. Once severe dental disease manifests itself, your pet will require a scale and polish, but this will be the least of your worries as multiple tooth extractions can often be necessary.
Dental disease causes localised pain in the oral cavity and can affect the rest of your pet’s body too. The inflamed, damaged gums absorb the bacteria-ridden tartar and from there, it accesses the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body, affecting the heart and kidneys in particular. This can seriously impact your pet’s health overall, especially if they’re elderly, already unwell or fragile in any other way.
If your pet has dental disease, the first symptom will more than likely be bad breath (halitosis). They could appear uncomfortable when they eat – often chewing with one side of their mouth or regularly dropping food.
Signs of Dental Problems
Be aware of the following:
Preventing Dental Problems
As with most pet ailments, prevention is far better than cure. There are numerous ways to prevent dental disease:
Dental diets – Several pet food companies now offer dental diets, designed to combat dental disease. Dental kibbles of a particular shape, size and texture have a mild abrasive effect and are formulated to clean your pet’s teeth as they chew.
Dental chews/treats – They work in much the same way as diets. Be wary, however, as some of them contain a high quantity of fat.
Dental hygiene – Tooth brushing is the gold standard of dental care for pets and, as with humans, it should be done every day. Use an appropriate animal toothbrush and paste. Restrain your pet firmly but kindly, go from back to front in a gentle, circular motion. If they don’t like the toothbrush, let them get used to the process – and having their teeth touched – by putting a dab of toothpaste on your finger and cleaning that way.
Remember: if you’re concerned about your pet’s dental health, seek veterinary attention. Here’s to a happy February, and to your pets’ teeth sparkling in time for Spring!