Would you know if your cat had toothache or your dog had dental disease?

Too often the importance of dental hygiene is overlooked in our cats and dogs – and during dental awareness month we wanted to highlight this. Having dog or cat breath isn’t “normal” for our pets and could well be an indicator that there is some degree of dental disease going on. Dental disease can range from mild gingivitis to a painful tooth root abscess. We recommend a proactive approach to dental care.

Every time your pet comes into Larkmead for a routine check up or vaccination, our vets will examine their oral cavity to check for any signs of inflammation, gum recession, wobbly teeth or infection. If any of these signs are seen then we will recommend a dental in order to remove any teeth that are causing pain or infection. Prevention is better than cure, and this is why your vet may recommend a dental clean under a general anaesthetic – calculus build up on teeth can harbour bacteria and then lead to dental disease which requires extractions, so cleaning the teeth before it gets to this point can prevent unnecessary pain. Once the teeth are beautifully clean again we can implement good oral hygiene to reduce the risk of dental disease occurring.

The best way to look at dental care for our pets is to compare it to our own – imagine if we never brushed our teeth . . .  not a pleasant thought! However, for the vast majority of our veterinary patients this is the norm. Chewing treats and toys can help reduce plaque build up a little, but it is very often not sufficient to prevent it. Plaque is the invisible film that forms over our teeth within 24 hours – when we brush our teeth daily we remove this. If left in place, plaque will calcify and form calculus, which is the hard yellow/brown deposit seen on the teeth. Once the calculus has formed it is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and can lead to dental disease. This calculus cannot be removed by brushing alone and so once this has formed a general anaesthetic will be required to descale the teeth and get them clean again. 

Tooth brushing has been shown as the single best way of preventing dental disease in animals – ideally we should be brushing them as often as possible – daily if we can. We realise this isn’t always possible so aim for at least once a week, but if you can get your pet (and yourself) into a routine, daily tooth brushing would be best.

Start by introducing the toothpaste with your finger – rub it around your pet’s teeth. Veterinary toothpastes contain enzymes to help break down the plaque, the physical motion of brushing also aids this. Most tooth pastes are poultry flavoured or something equally as delicious for our pets. Once your pet is happy with the tooth paste and your finger you can start to introduce the tooth brush – aim to brush your pet’s teeth for at least 15-20 seconds.

Check out our how to video on tooth brushing

Just like humans, despite regular tooth brushing some pets can still develop dental issues and so regular check ups are important to maintain a healthy mouth. If a dental clean is recommended by you vet this is best done as soon as possible to avoid the likelihood of dental disease ensuing. Severe dental disease can lead to periodontal disease, tooth root abscesses, tooth loss or even bone loss in the jaw. It is better to keep teeth clean in order to prevent these issues than to have to remove multiple teeth due to them. Regular tooth brushing and the occasional descale at the vets if needed can prevent longer anaesthetics and extractions for your pets and save money for you. 

Regular dental care is key in giving your pet a longer, healthier life – it has been shown in human medical literature that oral health is linked to your bodies overall health and the same applies to our pets.

September 2018:

This month we are offering a free dental care starter kit to anyone who brings their pet in to one of our free nurse dental clinics - call our Reception Team on 01235 814991 / 01491 651379 to book.