Bad Breath in our pets
Bad breath is often joked about in our favourite pets but dental disease affects about 80% of our pets over the age of 3.
How do I detect it ?
People generally notice a bad breath and if you lift the lip you can see a brown deposit on the teeth with redness, swelling and even bleeding of the gums. In cats you sometimes just see excessive drooling or that they stop grooming themselves. Loss of appetite, preferring soft food while or even chattering of teeth while trying to eat, are some other signs seen in dogs.
Can the rest of the body be affected by bad teeth ?
YES – every tooth has it's own blood supply and blood circulates through the whole body. Organs generally affected are the heart , kidneys , intestinal tract and the joints. Bacteria in the mouth form a “gum” with the saliva and this sticks to the teeth and is known as plaque. The plaque then sticks and binds with minerals and forms a tartar and calculus. This means the bacteria can “seed” directly into the blood stream and travel via the blood to any organ, especially those mentioned above. There the bacteria then cause disease.
How do we treat this ?
If you are worried about dental disease in your pet, an examination at your local vet will determine if treatment is necessary. Most dental care needs to be done while anaesthetised and this means the body needs to be healthy to survive an anaesthetic. Some animals might require antibiotics before the procedure because the infection is too severe and in others we might recommend a blood test before we start, to ensure that all the organs are still in a fit state.
During the dental the teeth get scaled with an ultrasonic scaler , the teeth then get probed and if necessary they get extracted. All remaining teeth then get polished to prevent immediate recurrence of the plaque. As a rule , the less plaque and calculus , the less dental and gingival disease and the less extractions and intervention is required and also the cheaper the procedure ..
When and how do I start my best buddy's dental care ?
The SOONER the BETTER !! The best time to start is when you first get your puppy or kitten.
Tooth brushing : It takes between 2-4 months for any animal to become comfortable with you brushing his / her teeth. This is still the one most effective way to clean your pet's teeth. We would normally advise to start with a soft human or doggy baby toothbrush with ANIMAL toothpaste. Normal human toothpaste with fluoride in, is toxic to pets. Aim at doing it daily but even if you can manage twice a week and if unsure as the how part – please visit your local vet and they will gladly advise you.
Dental chews – either manufactured dental chews and treats or otherwise fresh fruit like apples, carrots or pears. The chewing on these will mechanically clean our pets' teeth.
Chlorhexidine sprays , gels or pastes – these can either be applied with a finger , a brush , a large swab or sprayed onto the teeth and gums. This physically reduces the plaque which is the building block for the calculus and tartar.
Dental wipes or swabs – by using these you again rub the plaque off and these would ideally be used on a daily basis.
Water additives – there are products like the Aquadent from Virbac, that you can just mix into their daily water – they don't taste or smell funny. Their teeth get cleaned by just normal day to day drinking and this again prevent further plaque build up.
DIET – it has been proven that animals on dried pelleted diets have far less dental disease than animals on tinned / sachet diet or even home cooked diets. There is also a large variety amongst the dried foods with some specific dental dried foods like the Hills T/D or Royal Canin dental diets and these are available for both dogs and cats. These diets mimic a “toothbrush” action by gradually splitting over the tooth and also have plaque reducing ingredients included in the food. Again your vet will be able to assist you in making the best food decision for your favourite pet while also caring for their teeth.
With good dental care, your pet will be able to enjoy a long and healthy life while flashing their friendly and healthy teeth.