Our resident animal expert Dr Enric Pallarols addresses some of your common concerns.
Q What do we need to know about dogs’ and cats’ teeth?
Dental surgeries are more common than you may think – my practice performs several each week. Most dental diseases start with bacteria and food particles accumulated along the gum line, creating plaque. This can harden and create calculus (tartar), causing inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), which can lead to periodontal disease, tooth resorption or even other life-threatening diseases.
The most common symptoms are bad breath; redness, inflammation and bleeding of the gums; change in colour of the teeth, missing or loose teeth; moving the head or favouring one side of the mouth while eating; drooling, pain and irritability; change in behaviour, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Unfortunately, these symptoms are not always detected until they become very obvious, and the dental disease is already advanced. If your pet is showing any of these symptoms you should take them to your vet.
Some breeds are more prone to suffer dental disease than others. Usually small and brachycephalic (shortened skull and nose) dogs such as Yorkshire, pug, chihuahua, boxer; and cats such as Persian, Himalayan, and Burmese.
Tooth abscesses are also very serious: they develop when the bacteria riches the pulp canal of the tooth, causing severe pain, lethargy, fever, bone loss, enlarged lymph nodes and other issues.
In some cases, dental disease can become life threatening. The bacteria can get into the blood stream and cause cardiac, kidney and liver disease.
This will depend on how advanced the dental disease is. Sometimes your pet will need pre-anaesthetic blood work, dental X-rays, and scale and polish. If the disease is more severe, they may need multiple teeth extractions, pain relief and antibiotics.
Prevention is the best medicine. Ask your vet’s advice and have your pet’s teeth evaluated at least once a year. Try your best to do tooth-brushing at home to prevent the build-up of plaque. If you start early on, your cat or dog should be able to tolerate it better when they’re older. If this is too difficult, there are dental chews, foods, toys, and some products you can put in their food or water that will help to prevent dental disease.
If you are in doubt about your pet’s dental health, ask your vet for advice.
Top tip: Never be tempted to use human toothpaste as some can be toxic to pets.
Dr Enric Pallarols
is Branch Partner at Medivet in Twickenham