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Animal Care Library

Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems. Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems. Use our Animal Care Library for quick, easy access to our most common animal care problems.

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Dental Disease Species: dogs

What is dental disease?

Dental disease or gingivitis describes inflammation and infection of the gums. Plaque and tartar build up over time causing gingivitis and often progresses to tooth disease. As with our own teeth, if left untreated gingivitis causes pain and suffering. More seriously, untreated mouth infections can affect other organs thus compromising your pet’s health

Why has my pet developed dental disease?

People brush their teeth twice a day, floss and use mouthwash but STILL have to visit their dentist at least yearly to have a dental examination and clean and scale. So it’s not surprising that animals develop dental disease too. Some dogs and cats despite the correct foods and dental preventative treatments at home still develop dental disease. Poor diet is the biggest contributor to exacerbating dental disease. Diets based on wet tinned food or home cooked foods are soft with little value as far as oral health is concerned.

Can dental disease affect my pets health?

Apart from tooth problems, periodontal disease also affects general health. Bacteria are released into the bloodstream through the inflamed gums and can lodge in places like the kidneys and heart valves, causing problems in these sites. Therefore, mouth health is important for your pet’s overall health and longevity.

What signs should I look for?

If you notice any of these signs in your pet it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian to have your pet’s mouth examined.

What does my vet look for when grading my pet's teeth?

GRADE 0 – Healthy mouth and teeth. No plaque or discolouration. OUR AIM!!! GRADE 1- Plaque on teeth only with NO tartar or gingivitis present. Grade 0 and 1 is our aim for all our animals. These animals have no pain or disease and preventatives like brushing, dental diets and dental treats are all that your vet will prescribe.

Which bones can I feed my pet?

Most dogs and cats over a few years of age have some degree of periodontal disease, due to not enough chewing on raw bones. While raw chicken wings are suitable for cats and small dogs, larger dogs need shin and shank bones, which most butchers can cut to the required size for you. Avoid cooked bones as they tend to splinter and can puncture the gut. Some cats prefer the chicken on the bones cooked a little, so you can quickly sear them under the grill. While most dogs love bones, cats need to be trained to eat them from an early age. Feed your kitten the wing tips, and progress to the entire wing as he grows. Chicken necks are also suitable. Offer your puppy small bones, too. Even though all animals have baby teeth that they will lose as they grow, it is important to encourage bone-chewing behaviour from an early age.

What are dental chews?

Some dogs cannot tolerate bones – causing vomiting and/or diarrhoea. These dogs can be fed rawhide bones, pigs ears, or other chew toys, such as Dental Kongs. You can encourage use of these toys by hiding food in them. Dry food is better than tinned food for tooth health, but won’t completely clean the teeth. However, new prescription diets are available from your vet that have a specially designed kibble that helps clean the tooth surface as the animal eats. Ask your vet for more information.

Can I really brush my pets teeth?

Yes, you can also brush your pet’s teeth. There are flavoured toothpastes containing enzymes that help break down plaque and kill bacteria, although the mechanical removal of tartar is the aim. Do not use human toothpastes, as these are not designed to be swallowed and can irritate the stomach if ingested. There are also various gels and liquids that contain the same sort of ingredients, and are an alternative if your pet disagrees with having its teeth brushed! Again, it is much easier to train your dog or cat to allow tooth brushing from an early age. You only need to clean the outside surface of the teeth, concentrating on the gum margin.

When is dental scaling necessary?

Once calculus is present, it usually needs to be removed by ultrasonic scaling. The instruments used are the same as used for humans, and also clean below the gum margin where plaque also accumulates. Loose or infected teeth need to be extracted. Then the teeth are polished to smooth the surface of the teeth to discourage plaque formation.This procedure needs to be performed under a general anaesthetic. Anaesthetics can be worrying for owners, but with newer and safer anaesthetic drugs, and better ways of monitoring animals under anaesthesia, there is minimal risk. Pre-anaesthetic blood tests, which check levels of liver and kidney enzymes and measure red and white blood cell parameters, are recommended for all animals regardless of age.

A yearly check up is a good idea. Take your pet to it’s veterinarian to get a dental check up once a year (when it’s vaccinations are due is a good idea), since periodontal disease can be a painful problem, and can significantly affect your pet’s general health.

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