Pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth. About 80 per cent of dogs and 70 per cent of cats not on a proper dental care program, will suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of two.
How dental disease in pets develops
A build-up of bacteria, food particles and saliva on the teeth forms plaque. Plaque, if not removed, will calcify into tartar or calculus and appears as a yellow-brown material on your pet's teeth.
Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible damage to occur. These include:
- Destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth.
- Unnecessary tooth loss, gum infection and pain.
- A source of infection for the rest of the body (such as the kidney, liver and heart) and can make your pet seriously ill.
Ultimately, dental disease in many pets has the potential to shorten your pet’s life span.
How do I know if my pet has dental disease?
Some signs that your dog may be suffering from dental disease include:
- Bad breath
- Inflamed gums
- Plaque and calculus build up
- Swollen jaw
- Trouble chewing
We reccomend having your pets teeth examined by one of our Sydney Animal Hospitals veterinarians on a regular basis and if necessary, following up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised (usually a simple procedure) to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing the pet. Placing your pet under anaesthesia is the safest way to perform a pet dental procedure.
At Sydney Animal Hospitals, a complete dental examination includes:
- Charting all your pet's present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth.
- Removal of tartar above your pet's gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for your teeth.
- Polishing your pet's teeth using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste.
- If certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary.
- In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted, and dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure.
Once all dental work is completed, your pet may be given an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, the anaesthetic gas is turned off, and your pet is allowed to wake up. Pets are generally able to go home on the same day.
See how to minimise your pet's chances of dental disease
Brush your pet's teeth daily. This is the best form of dental hygiene for long-term prevention of dental disease. Here are some tips we recommend:
- Start when your pet is at a young age so they become used to the process.
- Ask us about pet toothbrushes and pet toothpaste.
- Do not use human toothpaste formulas, which may be toxic to your pet.
- With caution, feed your pet raw and meaty bones. You'll need to ensure bones are suitable for your pet. Please ask for advice before giving your pet a bone. Some bones may cause harm.
- Use enzymatic chews or teeth cleaning biscuits to help keep your pet's teeth clean.
- Provide a constantly refreshed supply of water in a clean bowl. As with humans, when cats are dehydrated their breath will smell. Their sense of smell knows when the water is not fresh.
Regular and frequent attention to your pet's teeth may avoid the need for a professional dental clean under anaesthetic and will also improve your pet's overall health.