Just like humans, our pets are vulnerable to gum disease and problems with their teeth. Alarmingly, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats suffer from some form of dental disease by the age of three.
When our pets eat, food particles and saliva lead to a build up of bacteria on the tooth surface, which is called plaque. Plaque sticks to the tooth surface above and below the gum line and if not removed will calcify into tartar, or calculus. This is the yellow brown material you often see on animal teeth. Over time the bacterial infection in tartar causes irreversible changes to occur. These include the destruction of supportive tissues and bone, resulting in red gums, bad breath and loosening of teeth. This same bacterial infection is also a source of infection for the rest of the body (such as the kidney, liver and heart) and can make your pet seriously ill.
Ultimately, dental disease results in many pets unnecessarily suffering tooth loss, gum infections and pain. Infections in the mouth can be an entry point for bacteria to get into the blood stream, which is then filtered out in the kidneys. Over time this results in compromised kidneys and premature death. Inadequate dental care can lead to serious disease in other organs in the body, which can affect the long term health and well-being of your pet.
What if my pet has already has dental disease?
Firstly, you should have your pet's teeth examined by one of our veterinarians on a regular basis and if necessary, follow up with a professional dental clean. Your pet needs to be anaesthetised to carry out a thorough dental examination, and to clean all teeth without distressing them.
Once anaesthetised, a complete dental examination is carried out. This process involves charting all present teeth and evaluating their condition, including the degree of tartar, gingivitis (gum inflammation) and any pockets in the gums around the teeth. Our veterinarians will then remove the tartar under the gumline using a special ultrasonic scaler, just like a dentist uses for our teeth. The teeth are then polished using a dental polisher and specialised fine-grade paste. If the dental disease is not severe, the procedure will end here.
However, if certain teeth are so severely affected they cannot be saved, extractions will be necessary. In some cases, gum surgery is required to close the holes left behind when a tooth is extracted. Dissolvable stitches are used for this procedure. Your pet will be given pain relief after extractions, and may also require a course of antibiotics. Most patients go home the same day after the procedure.
Following a professional dental clean, a plan needs to be implemented to minimise build up of tartar again, and will depend on the severity of your pet’s dental disease. This may involve regular tooth brushing, feeding raw meaty bones and/or a special diet. Even with the best at-home dental care, your pet's teeth will still likely need a professional clean every 2-3 years. The cost of a dental clean under anaesthetic at our practice is only $250 (excluding extractions).
How can I minimise ongoing dental disease?
Long-term control and prevention of dental disease requires regular home care. It is easiest if you get them used to it at a young age. Dental home care may include:
- Feeding prescription dental diets like Hills T/D or Royal Canin Dental Eukanuba will help prevent the development of dental disease, as they contain an abrasive that removes tartar as they crunch on it.
- Feeding raw meaty bones or dry food to reduce the accumulation of plaque.
- Use dental toys, enzymatic chews, or teeth cleaning biscuits, all of which may help keep the teeth clean.
We will check your pet's teeth every year at their annual vaccination and/or heartworm injection. Your veterinarian will then discuss with you the best way to maintain that Hollywood smile!