EVERY fortnight, JOHN STITT, BVM&S MRCVS, a vet at the Alexander Vet Centre, writes for our Pets pages.
DO you brush your teeth twice daily? Do you visit the dentist once or twice yearly? How often do you look in your pet’s mouth?
Research has shown that 70 to 80 per cent of cats and dogs show signs of dental disease by the age of three.
Halitosis or bad breath is the sign that often alerts owners to look in their pet’s mouth.
Just lift up the lip and you should see shiny white teeth and pink healthy gums. If there is a build-up of tartar (the hard brown material), this can lead to gingivitis where the gums are red, sore and may bleed.
If this is untreated it will progress to periodontal disease where the teeth will eventually fall out.
If there are signs of tartar accumulation and gingivitis, a scale and polish may be advised while damaged teeth might require extraction.
Pets are very good at hiding pain, although they may start eating on one side, paw at their mouth, become less sociable, lose weight or cats especially may stop grooming and look more unkempt.
Dental disease may also act as a source of infection and spread to the kidney, liver, heart and lungs while diabetic patients can be difficult to control when dental health is poor.
Obviously prevention is better than cure so start looking in your puppies’ or kittens’ mouth as soon as possible, just lifting up the lip and gently popping your finger in their mouth will get them used to the procedure.
Brushing teeth is the best way to keep teeth clean but should be done daily.
There are special pet toothpastes containing enzymes which reduce the plaque that develops into tartar, which can be applied as a gel or a paste using either a small toothbrush or a finger brush.
Do not start brushing if you think there is soreness in the mouth as dental treatment may be required first. Do not use your own toothpaste and you don’t need to floss.
Dental chews are a good adjunct or alternative to the days you forget to brush. Ensure you choose the correct size and type and don’t give too many as they can cause upset tummies.
Bones from the butchers are not recommended as they can splinter and cause bowel problems or can fracture the tooth enamel.
Certain dried foods are formulated to help keep teeth clean by scraping the teeth and helping keep the gums clean.
It is important to take your pet for an annual check at the vets who should highlight if your pet has any dental problems.