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Info & Advice

COMPANION ANIMALS

This page is dedicated to what we believe might be of interest for you and your pet. In-depth articles packed with useful information & practical tips for your companion animals. 

Dental Advice

Healthy Teeth for a Healthy Pet

Dogs and cats are carnivores with teeth adapted for eating carcasses (including cartilage, bones, feathers and skin). As most of our pets are fed commercial diets or cooked foods, their teeth are more likely to suffer from tartar build up, because they are not kept clean by chewing and tearing the way nature intended. 75% of dogs and cats over 3 years old have some degree of dental disease.

PLAQUE is a mixture of food, bacteria and saliva which forms a film on the tooth surface within hours of eating. If plaque is not removed it combines with mineral salts in the saliva to form tartar or calculus. When we brush our own teeth twice daily we are removing plaque.

TARTAR is the hard, permanent deposit that builds up on the sides of the teeth when plaque is allowed to remain. Tartar has a rough surface which is ideal for further plaque attachment and it is easily seen when you look in the animal’s mouth.

GINGIVITIS is inflammation of the gums caused by the plaque and bacteria and is visible as red, swollen or bleeding gums. Gingivitis may be painful but it can be reversed if treated early. If not treated the gums eventually recede and allow further tartar to build up causing loosening of the teeth and periodontitis.

PERIODONTITIS is disease of the supporting tissues of the tooth, the gums, jawbone and periodontal ligaments. It is irreversible and leads to tooth mobility and tooth loss.

HALITOSIS is bad breath, something that most owners of pets with dental problems will be very aware of. It is caused by the bacteria associated with oral health problems.

Prevention of Dental Problems

All new puppies and kittens should get used to having their mouth examined and their teeth handled by their owner. Examination by the Vet at vaccination time will identify any conformational problems which can predispose to periodontal disease later on. Many young animals may have retained baby teeth which interfere with the normal development of the permanent adult teeth. It is important to identify and remove these before the problems start rather than adopt a “wait and see” attitude. Small breed dogs and pure bred cats are most likely to have abnormal conformation.

BRUSHING has been proven to be the gold standard of home oral healthcare. Three times weekly is enough for healthy mouths. Animals with previous dental problems which required treatment may need once daily brushing. Special animal toothpastes are available as human ones are unsuitable. Any small soft toothbrush will do. Small animals may accept a finger brush better. Ask us about our starter kit with toothpaste, finger brush and our 10 Top Tips for Brushing your Pet's Teeth.

DIET Dogs and cats on soft diets have a higher incidence of plaque build up compared to those on dry diets. Some foods are specially designed to improve oral health.

Hill Sience Diet Oral Care + Hills T/D
These foods have a larger kibble size and specially developed fibres that improve the cleaning action of the food on the surface of the tooth. They have been scientifically proven to reduce plaque, tartar and gingivitis and are a good alternative where tooth brushing is not an option.

Eukanuba
pet foods all incorporate the Dental Defense system. This consists of a coating on the dry food with Polyphosphate micro-cleansing crystals which actually remove plaque during chewing and prevent already formed plaque being converted to tartar. This food has been proven to result in significant decreases in tartar accumulation.

Raw Meaty Bones
There is no evidence that feeding bones prevents or controls periodontal disease but we do know that bones may cause injury to teeth or other parts of the digestive system so most Vets no longer recommend bones. Raw chicken necks or wings may help in cats and small dogs if introduced early in life. Remember to be very careful with hygiene when handling and storing raw chicken – only feed the chicken on the day you buy it, otherwise freeze it. Some dogs are too greedy and may choke on partly chewed bones. Dogs that eat a lot of bones may have prematurely worn teeth. Brisket beef bones are best for larger dogs who like to chew their bones right up – leg bones can shatter pieces off the sides of the dog’s teeth.

Chews
There are a variety of these available. Some are helpful in decreasing tartar build up. Chews should be softer than the teeth and large enough that the pet cannot get the whole chew in the mouth, as they can obstruct or cause the animal to choke. Examples are Vegedent, Dentastix, Greenies and Rawhide chews.

GELS, SPRAYS AND MOUTHWASHES
Most of these contain chlorhexidine or xylitol which kill bacteria and will significantly decrease plaque and tartar build up on healthy teeth. Prolonged use may cause staining of the teeth. Some pets do not like the taste.

Treatment of Dental Problems

Some pets will require Professional Dental Cleaning (scale and polish) under a general anaesthetic. High risk animals e.g. small breeds, brachycephalic (“squashed face”) breeds and dogs fed mainly soft food diets may need this on an annual basis to keep periodontal disease at bay. Cats with oral inflammatory conditions and FORLs (feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions) may also need regular dental treatment. Teeth damaged by trauma may be causing pain, infection and periodontal disease and should always be checked out as soon as possible. Some may be able to be repaired if treated soon after being damaged. Many animals need extractions which are all done under general anaesthetic with local nerve blocks for pain relief. They may also need a course of antibiotics to combat gum infections. Surgical extraction sites are sutured with dissolving sutures.

Many animals with dental problems are elderly and may have concurrent heart or kidney problems. We may recommend preanaesthetic screening e.g. blood/urine tests to formulate the best treatment plan for each patient. Intravenous fluid therapy and blood pressure monitoring can minimise the risk to compromised animals and pain relief is given to all patients who undergo extractions.

Why Treat Dental Problems?

There is substantial evidence to suggest that dental disease can cause other problems such as heart or kidney disease by releasing bacteria and toxins into the blood. Many animals with dental disease are in pain or discomfort and some even lose weight due to the bacterial infection in their mouths. Often owners comment on the improved temperament of the animal after having its dental disease treated so obviously these animals were not feeling so good pre-treatment. Dogs and cats are very good at concealing their discomfort and owners are often unaware of the severity of the dental problems that they may have. Another big plus to treating your pet’s dental disease is the improved smell of his/her breath that will result!


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