Why is pet dental health so important?
Lately, there's been a lot of chatter about the importance of dental health in the pet parenting world. And it’s a breath of fresh air (pun intended) for vet professionals like myself!
Prioritising dental health, regularly checking the mouth and daily tooth brushing should be a key part of your pet care routine.
But don’t be too tough on yourself if you didn’t know this! Things have come a long way with pet ownership over the last decade.
You may have already heard (or made) running jokes at home about the pet's bad breath getting worse with old age. This was just assumed to be a normal part of owning an animal, but the good news is not anymore!
Thankfully, the modern pet parent has access to a world of information through the power of the internet and social media.
We are more aware and focused on our cats and dogs’ feelings and well-being than ever before. Especially after spending so much time with them during the pandemic.
Because of this, more owners are becoming mindful of pet dental health and seeking out safe solutions and hygiene products.
I recently took part in a professional group looking at pet dental care. This inspired me to help more pet parents take care of their pet’s teeth from the comfort of their homes.
I started to think about why I sometimes struggle to get pet parents to brush their pet's teeth daily.
But did you know that four in ten people in the UK brush their teeth just once a week!? With only one in five people brushing twice daily!
As a dentist's daughter who religiously brushes twice a day, I was so taken aback by that statistic.
But now it's no surprise why it's hard to get owners to take care of their pet's teeth when so many neglect their own!
During my consultations, I always recommend toothbrushing as the best thing you can do to keep your pet’s mouth healthy.
But I also understand how difficult it can be to add this to your daily routine with all the other tasks you juggle.
That’s why I would much rather meet in the middle and set more realistic goals for the sake of all pets.
If you can only manage twice or three times a week, that’s good enough and better than nothing.
Because if you don’t look after your pet's dental health at all, there are a lot of troubles you can face in the future.
- A dental abscess is an infection in the tissues surrounding the tooth root.
- It causes a lot of pain and needs vet treatment ASAP.
- You may notice a swelling on the face below the eye or around the lower jaw.
- Damage to the tooth from things like chewing on hard toys and bones can cause an abscess.
- An abscess can also occur as a result of dental disease. Bacteria can grow down the tooth to the root, loosening the tooth and forming an abscess.
- Symptoms can include reluctance to eat, yelping when chewing toys or food, bad breath, bleeding gums, swellings below the eye or around the jaw and nose discharge.
- Vet treatment is required, which may include X-rays, possible anaesthetics and treatments such as tooth removal or a root canal.
- Prevent abscesses by regular toothbrushing, getting checkups at the vet and choosing chews that aren’t too hard and splinter.
- Usually caused by trauma to the tooth, which loosens the tooth.
- Toy tugging, getting a tooth stuck in a collar when playing, or falls can cause this.
- The tooth may start to die and change colour.
- Requires a vet visit to see if tooth removal is necessary under anaesthetic.
- Broken teeth are common in dogs as our pups enjoy chewing, biting and carrying objects in their mouths.
- Tooth fractures can also occur from trauma, such as road accidents or rough play.
- This can be very painful if the nerve is exposed, and vet attention is often needed. You can check if you can see a pink-exposed area on the broken tooth.
- Bacteria can cause an infection by entering the exposed part.
- Usually, you will need to visit your vet for tooth removal under anaesthetia.
- Get any discoloured teeth checked out by a vet.
- Sometimes occur from abnormal development as a puppy or a trauma to the tooth.
- Purple, brown or black teeth are a sign that the teeth are dead or dying.
- Bacteria can spread with these teeth in the mouth and even around the body.
- Possible removal of the tooth under anaesthetic is recommended at your vet.
- Not common in dogs. Only about 5% of dogs are affected in their lifetime.
- More commonly seen in larger breed dogs such as labradors, rottweilers and Weimaraner.
- Possible fillings or removal may be necessary at your vet.
Retained baby teeth
- Baby teeth usually change at around 4-6 months to their permanent, adult teeth.
- Occasionally (especially with smaller breeds) the adult tooth grows next to the baby tooth, which remains in place and doesn’t fall out.
- The most common teeth for this are the canines (fangs) and incisors (the small front teeth).
- Most common in short-faced (brachycephalic breeds) such as pugs, bulldogs and chihuahuas.
- Regular checks at around 3-6 months are ideal to identfiy any retained teeth for removal if necessary to allow the adult tooth to grow in the correct position.
And it isn't just the issues listed above that you have to worry about if you don't look after your pet's teeth.
Neglecting dental health can result in long term (chronic) pain for our beloved buddies.
Infections in the mouth can also cause problems elsewhere in the body. Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and travel elsewhere which can cause heart, liver, kidney and lung infections.
Our pets are very good at hiding any pain they feel, especially our feline friends.
They may show that they're suffering in other ways such as tiredness, aggression and slowing down.
For tips on how to prevent dental disease and tooth loss in pets, check out our blog on the terrifying consequences of ignoring your pets dental health.
If you need support getting started with a good dental care regime, our registered vet nurses can help.
You can connect with a professional instantly on live chat here or if you need more help, you can book a free vet nurse consultation below.