Pet owners have many different responsibilities and sometimes, remembering everything that you need to do to keep your pet healthy and happy can be a little overwhelming. Some elements of pet care are more obvious than others, and one thing that often gets overlooked by pet owners in favor of these is dental care. Your pet’s teeth are just as important as your own, and you owe it to your furbaby to make sure that his dental health is a priority.
Your pet relies on her teeth just as much as you need your own. They perform a number of different functions that are crucial for her day to day existence. These include:
Biting and chewing her food
Holding and carrying objects, such as when playing ball or frisbee
Providing a form of protection should she ever need them in this way
When your pet’s teeth are compromised in any way, it can make life pretty miserable for her. Not only do dental problems cause unnecessary pain and suffering, but they can have serious consequences for her overall physical and psychological health. Animals who have missing or painful teeth may find it difficult to eat or drink, may not want to participate in activities and games and may feel vulnerable when out of the home.
Many people are surprised to learn that decay isn’t the biggest concern when it comes to pet dental health. Although decay can occur, it isn’t very common, and this is largely because of the difference in your pet’s diet to your own. Cats are primarily carnivores, meaning that they have very little carbohydrate in their diet. Since it is the sugars in carbohydrates that interact with bacteria in the mouth to decay the teeth, the predominantly meat/fish-based diet of felines makes decay very unlikely. Whilst dogs are omnivorous, their diet typically still contains far less sugar than our own, again decreasing the likelihood of decay.
Nevertheless, there is another dental problem that represents a significant risk to our animals - periodontal disease. Also known as dental disease, it is identical to the human version of the condition, occurring when plaque from the teeth moves onto the gum tissue, causing inflammation and infection. Periodontal disease is extremely common amongst animals, with as many as 1 in 3 pets developing the condition before their third birthday.
Symptoms of periodontal disease in pets include:
Abnormally bad breath
Bleeding gums (you may notice blood in her water bowl or on her chew toys)
Obvious yellow/brown deposits on the teeth
Research has shown that animals that have severe periodontal disease are more likely to develop other chronic health conditions, including diabetes mellitus, heart and kidney problems.
The good news is that there is a range of things that you can do to help your pet enjoy the best dental health possible. In taking positive steps, you can help her to retain her teeth and enjoy a full, happy and active life. Some of the steps that you can take to support your pet’s dental health include the following:
Just as you should visit your dentist for regular dental check-ups, so should your pet. Most veterinarians offer this service and recommend that all animals attend an annual dental wellness appointment so that their dental health can be assessed. This is usually done under a general anesthetic so that your pet is still, and your vet can take their time to look at her mouth and teeth safely and perform a comprehensive check. It also means that your pet needn’t be stressed or anxious during the appointment.
These are usually carried out as part of your pet’s dental wellness check and whilst she is under the effects of the general anesthetic. Although you can and should carry out dental cleanings at home, it can be difficult to do a really thorough job as even the best-behaved pet won’t understand the need to cooperate. A professional clean using specialist tools whilst your pet is asleep is the best way to boost her overall oral health.
Your vet will recommend that you brush your pet’s teeth at home fairly regularly. With patience and practice, this isn’t as difficult as it might sound. Use a small, round-headed brush and special veterinary-approved toothpaste. Never use human toothpaste as these contain ingredients that are harmful to animals.
Dental chews are a valuable resource for helping to keep your pet’s teeth clean. They contain ingredients that are proven to boost your pet’s oral health, and their abrasive nature means that they rub gently against her teeth while she chews, performing a rudimentary cleaning action that removes debris and bacteria. A dental chew a day could potentially keep dental disease at bay!
If you are concerned about your pet’s dental health and would like to book a visit to see our expert veterinary team, or if you have further questions about pet dental care, please contact Lakeville Family Pet Clinic in Lakeville, MN today (952) 595-6500!