When was the last time you looked inside your pet’s mouth or thought about brushing their teeth? Despite our pet’s oral wellbeing being just as important as our own, dental health remains one of the most overlooked aspects of all pet care. As a result, experts estimate that as many as 80% of domestic animals have moderate to severe dental health issues that could be avoided with the right dental care. Here’s what you need to know about the key consequences of poor dental health in pets and what you can do to avoid these issues and keep your animal’s teeth in the best possible condition.
Periodontal disease is the biggest threat to our pet’s dental health and is more concerning than decay/caries which are quite rare in animals. Periodontal disease is one of the names used to describe severe gum disease, which affects 1 in 3 dogs and cats by their third birthday. When our animals eat anything, our teeth form a clear, sticky film called plaque that contains bacteria. Periodontal disease begins when this plaque isn’t removed and the plaque gets under the gum line, causing inflammation, bleeding, pain, and other issues. The natural inflammatory response will also destroy tissue, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth and causing the bone in your pet’s jaw to deteriorate. This more often than not leads to tooth loss.
Unfortunately, it isn’t only your pet’s mouth and teeth that are negatively affected by periodontal disease. When an animal has the severe dental disease it is likely that the bacteria will enter their bloodstream and travel around to other parts of their body. If this happens, it can cause inflammation to occur in their organs, putting them under stress and affecting their body systems. Some of the conditions that have been linked to periodontal disease include:
High blood pressure
Problems with kidneys
You can dramatically reduce your pet’s risk of developing these conditions by taking preventative measures against periodontal disease.
If you have ever had toothache yourself, you will know just how unbearable dental pain can be. Whether it is a dull or constant ache that prevents you from sleeping or sharp pains that make it impossible to eat, dental pain is the same in pets as it is in humans – except your furbaby may not realize why they are suffering. They may also find it difficult to eat, which can lead to misery and weight loss. As a caring and compassionate owner, you won’t want your pet to experience this sort of discomfort when it is easily prevented through proper dental care.
Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to preserve the health and condition of your pet’s teeth and mouth. One of the easiest is brushing their teeth, yet many owners never think to perform this simple task. Brushing removes the plaque that builds on the teeth before it penetrates the gum tissue and causes periodontal disease. Your vet can give you advice on the best techniques to use to brush your pet’s teeth. Just be sure to only focus on the outer faces of the teeth as most animals can’t tolerate the insides being cleaned, and only use veterinary recommended toothpastes. Human versions contain ingredients that are highly toxic to animals.
Dental chew sticks and toys are also very valuable for your pet’s dental health. Chewing stimulates the natural production of saliva, which neutralizes any acids and washes away plaque before it can have a damaging effect. Abrasive varieties also rub against their teeth in a cleaning action that is similar to that of a toothbrush.
Finally, make sure that you bring your pet in for regular dental check-ups with a vet. They understand and can spot the early signs of dental problems and can even anesthetize your pet so that professional-grade cleanings can be performed, which are also beneficial in preventing periodontal disease.
If you would like more information about the consequences of poor dental health in pets, please get in touch with our experienced veterinary team in Coronado, CA.