Is your pet getting proper dental care? Dentists recommend people brush their teeth twice a day and get a professional cleaning twice a year, but did you know many pets need dental care just as much as you do?
80% of dogs and more than 50% of cats over the age of three have some type of dental disease–although you might not be able to tell just through observation. That’s why as pet lovers, it’s important to pay attention to this often overlooked problem. In humans, the most common problem is tooth decay, but in dogs and cats, the most frequent trouble comes from periodontal disease and fractured teeth.
Periodontal Disease in Your Pet
Bacteria are always present in your dog’s or cat’s mouth. When not removed regularly, bacteria can form a layer of plaque around the teeth and gums, which hardens and creates a thicker substance called tartar. As the tartar accumulates, the area around it becomes inflamed, resulting in disease. Left untreated, that periodontal disease can eventually cause your pet to lose teeth.
Brushing your dog’s or cat’s teeth on a daily basis can help maintain good oral hygiene. So can giving your pet chew toys or providing dental diets to reduce plaque. However, if plaque has already formed in the mouth, it needs to be removed professionally.
It used to be common to give dogs bones as treats, but now we know that bones can cause a lot of damage, including chipped or broken teeth. Ice, nylon chew toys and hard objects or toys that don’t bend can break your pet’s teeth when chewed. This can be quite painful, as nerves and blood vessels can be exposed. If your pet’s tooth breaks, your veterinarian may need to perform root canal or extraction.
Often seen in cats, tooth resorption occurs when the tooth root gradually breaks down, leaving holes in the tooth. The tooth becomes painful and must be removed. Veterinarians don’t know what causes tooth resorption but believe poor oral hygiene may be to blame.
Your Pet’s Dental Care
For dogs and cats, dental care does start at home. Veterinarians recommend daily brushing with a special canine toothbrush or a toothbrush intended for cats, along with a toothpaste made for your specific type of pet. Toothpastes designed for humans shouldn’t be used because those have chemicals that shouldn’t be ingested and that could cause your pet internal discomfort or illness.
In addition to daily cleaning, your vet should examine and clean your pet’s teeth periodically. He or she will check to make sure the teeth are growing and are aligned properly and that the gums and mouth area are healthy. Your vet can also thoroughly clean your pet’s teeth while your pet is under general anesthesia, to remove plaque, gingivitis and tartar.
Dental disease can be hard to detect, but if your pet has bad breath, paws at the mouth, has swelling of the gums, has a cut or damaged gums or tongue, or has a loss of appetite, make a dental visit with a veterinarian.
If your pet is due for a thorough, gentle, dental checkup, contact us at Dogwood Veterinary Hospital & Health Resort. Our Chapel Hill veterinary clinic offers full dental care including cleanings, periodontitis treatments and extractions. Questions? Give us a call at 919.942.6330 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.