The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) have launched a campaign focusing on the causes and treatments for dental disease in pets. They report that periodontal disease is the most common disease found in pets, with 80% of cats and dogs over five years old having some form of dental disease. A lot of the time, these diseases go unnoticed by pet owners and so to combat this, the AVA have named August “Pet Dental Month”.
Dental disease can be hard to spot because pets with sore gums, broken teeth or a mouth infection keep eating. This often means owners will downplay, or even miss, the seriousness of dental disease.
Dental disease, if not treated, can lead to loss of teeth, pain, and ongoing pain. Bacteria and toxins from the infected areas can get into the bloodstream, leading to damage to the kidneys, heart and liver.
Animals with red or inflamed gums, stained teeth or bad breath may have some form of dental disease. If your pet is dropping their food, it may also be a sign of toothache due to dental disease.
Dental disease becomes more serious as dogs get older so it is important to treat it when your pets are young. A quick way to check is to smell their breath – if it smells bad, it may be a sign of dental disease.
But a sniff alone is not enough. We recommend an annual dental check-up. A lot of dental disease occurs below the gum line and cannot be diagnosed with a superficial check. Our vets perform annual dental check-ups: thorough assessments of what’s happening in your pet’s mouth above and below the gum line.
If your pet needs a dental cleaning or other dental procedure performed they will need to be given a general anaesthetic. Performing any dentistry on an animal without anaesthetic is stressful and painful for the animal. We DO NOT recommend anaesthesia-free dental procedures for any pets. As most dental diseases spread below the gum line anaesthesia allows us to painlessly identify and treat the teeth or problem areas causing your pet pain.
We also recommend performing an x-ray on your pet’s teeth while they are under anaesthetic. These x-rays will help us diagnose what is happening under your pet’s gums. Some dental issues, such as root abscesses, are often only detectable using an x-ray.
The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable and in its early stages, its effects are reversible. Regular tooth-brushing at home is a good first defence against dental disease for both humans and our pets. Starting when your dogs are puppies or cats are kittens, you can condition your pet to enjoy a good, gentle toothbrush. In addition to the annual checks and at-home brush, we also recommend dental-friendly diets and chews. Our staff are happy to talk to you about good brushing techniques and dental-friendly diets for your animal companions.
The next time you’re visiting Karingal Veterinary Hospital or Ballam Park Veterinary Clinic, ask one of our staff about what you can do to prevent dental disease, or call today to make an appointment with one of our vets.