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Info & Advice


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 Care - Halt Halitosis and Help Your Pet

Halitosis is defined as "having foul smelling breath".  Most cases of bad breath in dogs and cars are directly due to the bacteria that cause dental disease so halitosis should never be ignored.  Studies have shown that up to 80% of pets over three years old have peridontal disease i.e. inflammation of the gums and tissues supporting teeth.

Most humans brush their teeth twice daily and still have to visit their dentist or dental hygienist regularly for cleaning and treatment but what are we doing for our beloved pets?

Pet Dental Month

August is now recognised as pet dental month. What does this mean? For many pet owners it will just remind them to get back on track with their pet’s oral hygiene but some will not be aware of the importance of a healthy mouth to the overall health and wellbeing of their pet. It has been proven in humans that dental disease can lead to damage in other organs such as kidneys, liver or heart and the same is true for animals.

Pet dental health has often been overlooked or ignored but with many pets living longer due to neutering, vaccination, improved nutrition and improved living conditions, as well as their close proximity to their owners, good dental health and a fresh smelling mouth are very important.

Periodontal disease

The first sign of dental problems that many animals show is often halitosis (bad breath) and many are so bad that the smell is spread over their whole body from licking themselves! Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria which form a slimy layer on the tooth surface known as plaque. Plaque is easily removed by brushing. If left undisturbed the plaque starts to mineralise and form calculus (tartar) which is solid and can only be removed by professional descaling. Both plaque and calculus cause gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) which can progress to inflammation of the deeper support tissues of the tooth (periodontitis) and the result is pain, tooth mobility and eventually tooth loss.

Broken teeth

Tooth fractures are very common in dogs - from chewing hard toys or bones, and cats – from fighting or falling. Just as in humans these are painful and the exposed live pulp in the centre of the tooth soon dies and becomes infected, leading eventually to a tooth root abscess. Many dogs and cats show few obvious signs of discomfort as there is an inbuilt survival instinct for them to hide weakness and often owners overlook the subtle signs that their pets exhibit.

Dental examination

Examination of the mouth in a conscious animal during routine health checks may reveal obvious problems like fractured teeth or advanced periodontal disease but often dental x-rays are required to expose hidden problems. Periodontal disease is often not obvious until the animal is anaesthetised and the teeth are probed or x-rayed. Some small breeds of dogs such as Yorkshire terriers, Maltese terriers, Miniature Poodles and Dachshunds are particularly prone to periodontal disease due to overcrowding of teeth and a tendency to eat more soft food with less need for chewing.

Prevention of Dental Disease

As in humans the gold standard of prevention is tooth brushing. Special pet toothpastes are available as human toothpastes are unsuitable for animals which don’t spit out the paste. Any small soft tooth brush is suitable or a special finger brush may work better for smaller mouths. Many pet owners are already doing this but not everyone has the time or patience for brushing so the next best option is feeding foods that have been developed to have larger harder kibbles which help to remove plaque and prevent calculus build up e.g. Hills Oral care or T/D. Extra prevention can also be provided by using dental chews. There are many available and more information on recommended diets and chews can be found on the Veterinary Oral Health Council website http://www.vohc.org.  We at Bay of Islands Veterinary Service are able to advise on the best option for your pet so call today!

Geraldine Gorman MVB MACVSc (Small animal dentistry and oral surgery), Bay of Islands Veterinary Services

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