Posted on 10th Sept, 2015: Toss a treat in the air and chances are your doggy dearest will leap at it even from a distance. That is how much pets love eating and specially playing while eating. With dogs its simple, they just love eating. But then this also puts them at a greater risk of dental diseases. It is by far the most commonly found major health problem in cats and dogs.
According to vets, when bacteria in the mouth forms into plaque and sticks to the surface of the teeth it leads to periodontal diseases. The minerals in saliva further harden it thus turning the plaque into tartar, which firmly attaches to teeth. Tartar is difficult to get rid without professional cleaning. And this is not where the buck stops, the tartar spreads under the gum line and damages the supporting tissues around the tooth, leading to loss of teeth and tissue damage.
And don’t just go by its name. Dental diseases do not merely affect the teeth and mouth. They affect the entire body, with serious consequences for health, longevity, and well-being of your beloved pets. Because animals do not brush their teeth, food accumulation on the teeth and bacteria growth cannot be eliminated.
Although not completely avoidable, dental disease is preventable. Generally there are not many direct symptoms other than bad breath. There are few noticeable signs, so it often goes untreated. In fact, the symptoms are vague and develop slowly. Strangely, many animals with dental diseases, despite having a serious medical condition, will not show overt symptoms.
Some of the symptoms are as follows.
- Bad breath
- Lethargy, inactivity, or depression
- Poor grooming or malodorous hair coat
- Tongue lolling
- Decreased appetite, especially for hard or crunchy food (this is not a common feature of dental disease)
- Weight loss
- Discharge from the nose or eyes
- Swelling on the face
The potential risk factors of ignoring dental care and periodontal diseases are higher in ageing dogs. Older animals suffer from dental disease with greater frequency. From Persian, Himalayan, and Siamese cats to small breed or pug-nosed dogs like Miniature and Teacup Poodles, Pekingese, Chihuahuas, Bichon Frises, Pugs, Yorkshire Terriers, and Boston terriers, all are at an increased risk. Animals who consume more soft food and who do not receive regular home care (such as tooth brushing) are at higher risk for dental disease than those who do. Regular vet check-ups when missed also raises the risk of dental issues.
As the periodontal diseases aggravate your pets may develop deterioration of body condition, tooth loss, sinus infections and infection of the bloodstream. It affects their immunity greatly and leads to a decreased lifespan and in some cases a premature death. Sometimes it may be the cause of grave diseases like Diabetes mellitus, Cancer, Arthritis and spinal diseases.
Periodontal disease is diagnosed by oral radiographs (X-rays) that help vets to characterize the extent of the disease. Most of the times, treatment of periodontal disease involves anesthetizing the pet to be able to remove infection and debris. Advanced treatments or tooth extraction maybe required that are hopelessly similar to humans dental care procedures.
Prevention is better than cure
Unless your preventive care at home is intense, periodontal disease will occur. For starters, daily tooth brushing your pet’s teeth is the best way to slow the occurrence of dental problems. Feeding dry food may help, but not entirely prevent, the development of recurrent periodontal disease. What makes this disease such a pressing issue is that almost all animals will suffer from dental disease at some point in their lives. Vet check-ups from time to time help maintain dental hygiene and some vets may offer anesthesia free clean ups too. As for most pet owners anesthetizing their pet for dental work is a worry.
Here are a few pointers to help your pet’s dental health:
- Feeding dry and preferably raw diet sets the stage for vibrant good health.
- If your pet is a dog, offer a fully digestible, high quality dental dog chew to help control plaque and tartar on his teeth.
- Brush your pet’s teeth, preferably every day. If every day is too tall an order, commit to do it several times a week.
- Perform routine mouth inspections. Train your pet to allow you to open his mouth and check for plaque or tartar build up. Feel for loose teeth or unusual lumps on the tongue, under the tongue, along the gum line and on the roof of his mouth.
- Arrange for regular oral exams performed by your veterinarian. He or she will alert you to any existing or potential problems in your pet’s mouth, and recommend professional teeth cleaning under anesthesia, if necessary.