Cats and dogs seldom develop tooth cavities, as humans do. However dogs and cats are not without a major dental problem!
In fact, the most common dental problem that we find in pets is considered far worse than cavities. It is called periodontal disease. This disease affects the gums and other tissues around the teeth, instead of the teeth themselves.
About 75 percent of all dental problems serious enough to be seen by a veterinarian, (and almost all teeth lost), are the result of periodontal disease. It is the cause of 95 percent of all cases of “bad breath.” In advanced cases, it results in infected, foul-smelling, loosened teeth; with a massive, unsightly accumulation of tartar. Often there is a loss of appetite due to painful gums. Even signs such as diarrhea, vomiting, and irritability may be the result of this disease.
Food material, bacteria, and saliva accumulate and adhere to the tooth surface, forming a soft “plaque.” This material can be easily removed at this point. However, if buildup is allowed to continue, it becomes hard and “chalk-like” from its mineral content.
The tartar buildup causes erosion of the gums, with subsequent inflammation and infection of the tooth socket. The teeth then become loose, and may even fall out.
The gums become reddened, swollen, and bleed easily. Your pet will often salivate excessively from the associated pain.
The buildup of this material allows bacteria to constantly grow in the infected mouth tissue. These bacteria may enter the bloodstream through the bleeding gums; and cause such problems as heart valve infections (endocarditic) and kidney infections.
This condition becomes very painful for your pet and will cause unpleasant mouth odor. Rapid buildup of tartar is primarily due to acidity of the saliva – not what your pet eats! The more acid the saliva (‘spit’) – the quicker the buildup of plaque.
Follow these tips for good oral hygiene:
• Feed at least some hard food, which will provide a cleaning action. Prescription Diet t/d is available for both dogs and cats and can be used as a treat every day. Friskies now has an adult cat food available at the grocery store to help keep teeth clean.
• Have teeth examined at least once every year for tartar buildup. Pets vary considerably in the amount of tartar that accumulates.
• Use a pet dentifrice on a regular basis. We will be happy to recommend what is best for your pet. CET Chews are available for both dogs and cats. Pet toothpaste is available. Human toothpaste should not be used as it can be toxic if swallowed by your pet.
These recommendations will probably do more to extend your pet’s life and make it more enjoyable than anything else you can do!
Dental Care Protocol
• As a practice we feel that pets need preventative dental care.
• Dental disease is one of the most neglected pet health needs.
• Puppies and kittens can become accustomed to proper dental care by periodic brushing.
• Halitosis (bad smelling breath) is an obvious sign of dental disease.
• Dental disease will shorten a pet’s life.
• Periodontal disease is the most common in older dogs and cats.
• A dental exam is an important part of every physical.
• Older pets (over 5 years old) should in general receive a dental exam every year and should have blood work done before sedation.
• Feline or canine T/D diet can help prevent the incidence of dental disease in pets.
• Daily to biweekly brushing is the most effective prevention.
• You can add 2 years to a pet’s life simply by keeping its mouth clean. A dental prophy for every pet can reduce pain from an infected mouth and bad breath.
Dental care will save money in the future by helping prevent heart/kidney infections and possible human health hazards (kids placing hands in eyes after touching the pet’s mouth).
Dr. Dan Meakin is the owner of All Creatures Animal Hospital, 1894 Ohio Pike in Amelia. Call (513) 797-PETS.