Few pet owners pay much attention to their pet’s teeth until the animal is in pain. What we don’t realise is that infected gums and rotten teeth lead to more serious ailments which can be life-threatening.
Pets are brilliant at disguising pain. It’s an instinctive survival mechanism so they won’t show discomfort until they’re in a really bad way. By the time this happens, disease has progressed to the point where radical intervention is needed and this can mean very expensive vet’s bills.
This is true of their teeth too. Unless you actively care for your pet’s teeth and check them regularly, you won’t know there’s a problem, yet periodontal disease is incredibly widespread. It is by far the most common cause of tooth loss among dogs; more than 85% of dogs over the age of four are affected to some degree.
Here’s how it happens:
The process starts when bacteria form plaque on the teeth.
Within days, minerals in the saliva bond with plaque to form tartar, a hard substance that adheres to the teeth.
The bacteria then work their way under the gums and cause gingivitis, which is an inflammation of the gums.
Once under the gums, bacteria destroy the supporting tissue around the tooth, leading to tooth loss.
Bacteria associated with dental disease can travel in the bloodstream to infect the heart, kidneys, and liver, which is why periodontal disease, though seemingly localised to the mouth, can have widespread, life-threatening effects.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
Bad breath (halitosis)
Redness or bleeding along the gum line
Drooling, which may be tinged with blood
Difficulty chewing (which may manifest as messy eating)
Pawing at the mouth
Loss of appetite
Loose or missing teeth
All breeds of dogs are susceptible to periodontal disease, although toy and miniature breeds are at higher risk.
Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. If a dog has mild periodontal disease (consisting of gingivitis without any bone loss), a thorough dental cleaning that includes the area under the gum (always followed by dental polishing) can help reverse the problem. If the problem can’t be reversed, your dog’s tooth may need to be extracted.
Prevention of periodontal disease:
Daily tooth brushing with a pet-friendly toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste is the most effective preventive and ideally should start when your dog is still a puppy. However, if you’re only starting in adulthood, help your dog get used to the idea by squeezing a dollop of the yummy-tasting toothpaste onto the brush and letting him chew it for a while. Once his mouth is used to the taste of the toothpaste and the feel of the brush, you should be able to start brushing properly.
Never ever use human toothpaste. It contains chemicals that are harmful to pets. EberVet Vetshops stock veterinary toothpaste in meaty flavours they’ll love.
Use a pet-specific toothbrush as it is the right size and shape for their mouth.
In addition to brushing, there are several dental chews that help keep the teeth clean and freshen the breath. Vetsbrands has an oral rinse that comes in spray form or, if you don’t like the idea of spraying into your dog’s mouth, a powder that is sprinkled on food. Ask your EberVet Vetshop for advice.