Did you know that good dental care can add years to the life of your pet?
80% of dogs, cats and ferrets have some form of dental disease by the age of 3. Since there are many health problems associated with dental disease, it is in everyone’s best interest to practice good dental preventative care. It can take just minutes to prolong the quality and length of your pet’s life.
The most common problem associated with dental disease is pain from gum and tooth root infections which contribute to bad breath and tooth loss. You may only notice bad breath but dental disease in not something that happens over night. Since it can be a gradual process your pet may actually be used to the tooth pain and discomfort from dental disease. One of the most common comments after a pet with severe dental disease has a dental cleaning is that their pet has wonderful breath and seems so much more comfortable and happy!
With dental disease bacteria from the mouth enters the bloodstream and causes havoc with internal organ systems. The bacteria lands on heart valves and causes heart failure. As the body fights the bacteria in the blood stream the body mounts an immune response, forming clumps of immune complexes that clog the filtering system of the kidneys damaging the kidneys causing kidney failure. Any chronic inflammation in the body can cause irritation to the liver. Liver disease contributes to decrease appetite, vomiting, and stomach and intestinal upset. Eventually inflammation of the liver, also known as hepatitis, or liver failure occurs. The bacteria from the dental disease can also seed the throat and trachea causing a chronic cough and exercise intolerance. If these infections are left untreated you can see permanent damage. Another scenario from the spread of bacteria are abscesses of the bone around the tooth root. This infection can cause a hole between the mouth and the nose called a fistula. This is very painful and often requires surgical intervention to help your pet recover.
That’s enough bad news. Here’s the good news, YOU CAN HELP PREVENT DENTAL DISEASE IN YOUR PET! Preventative dental care is very effective. Some things are beyond your control, such as genetics, your pet’s natural chemistry, breed and chewing habits. You can start with your veterinarian. During an basic exam your veterinarian can visualize the teeth and help you determine what will be necessary for your pet’s dental health. Your veterinarian can show you how to brush your pet’s teeth. Brushing your pet’s teeth is fast and fairly easy, plus it is the most effective step toward dental health. Unfortunately only 6% of pet owners will CONSISTENTLY brush their pet’s teeth. You need to brush your pet’s teeth at least 3 times a week to be effective. The next best thing is flushing the mouth/teeth with oral rinses to kill bacteria in the mouth. Often these products contain zinc, which helps combat plaque and tarter, and odor eliminators to improve breath. The oral flushesvcan be additives for your pet’s drinking water or they can be spritzed directly on the gums and teeth. Less effective, but still effective, are edible chews or chew toys. Anything your pet chews will help but many products at the pet store or your veterinarians office will contain enzymes to help kill bacteria in the mouth. There are even special diets formulated that help your pet with special “fiber matrixes” and enzymes to shear and rub the teeth and kill the bacteria in the mouth. One other product that needs to be mentioned is a product called Oravet. Oravet is a waxy substance that you smear onto the teeth once weekly. This product helps the bacteria and saliva (plaque) to slide off the teeth, the means less build up of plaque which means less tarter. Using this product alone can decrease plaque and tarter build up by 40-60% in a year.
If you chose to do any of the above you will help improve your pet’s dental health. The more you do, the better your pet’s teeth. None of these preventative steps take very long. After you and your pet get into the habit, it can actually be a special bonding time to help improve the relationship between you and your pet with the additive benefit of improved dental health.