Dental disease is one of the most common problems seen by vets in small animal practice and it is easily preventable with the correct dental hygiene programme. It is not just the dirty teeth that you see that is the problem, there is also unseen damage being done within the body. As your pet eats, food particles accumulate on and between teeth and bacteria in the mouth use this to form plaque which in turn forms tartar (the hard material that builds up on the tooth surface). Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) progresses to more serious periodontal disease where tooth attachments are lost and teeth can become loose. The huge amount of bacteria that is present then gains access to the circulation eventually leading to heart, liver and kidney problems and possibly even organ failure and don’t forget that bad teeth hurt! We don’t want our pets to be in pain or to have more serious consequences when it can be prevented so check their mouths for signs of dental disease and if you have concerns seek veterinary advice.
Signs of dental problems
- Bad breath
- Drooling (in rabbits you may only notice sticky fur on the front feet and you cannot see most of their teeth)
- Appearance of tartar
- Reluctance to eat/reduced appetite
- Teeth chattering especially in cats
- Discoloured/broken teeth
- Swelling of the face
Feeding a dry diet will help to reduce plaque and tartar build-up due to the mechanical action of chewing but also increased saliva production which contains natural antibacterial substances and wet diets seem to speed up plaque and tartar formation. There are also specific dental diets available from your vet but far and away the best form of prevention is teeth brushing (imagine what your teeth would be like without twice daily brushing!).
Teeth Brushing should be started at a young age to get you and your pet accustomed to the routine but can be implemented later on with careful introduction. There are specially designed brushes and pastes that taste nice to animals and you must not use human toothpaste as this contains substances that are not good for pets. If you are worried about your pets teeth or would like advice bring them to the clinic for a free dental check.