As domesticated as they may be, our dogs and cats have retained some of the instincts that ensured their survival in the wild. First and foremost, they are reluctant to show pain, since injured animals are easy prey for predators. It is for this reason that it can be difficult to discern when our furry friends are sick or injured. For obvious reasons, oral discomfort in pets often evades detection.
According to the experts, 75 percent of middle-aged pets have some form of gum disease. The percentage is slightly higher, perhaps as much as 85 percent, in canines. Of course, there are other dental concerns and disorders besides gum disease. They include abscesses, infections, loose, crooked, or cracked teeth. But most of them are a result of a serious gum disease, such as gingivitis or periodontitis.
Both of these disorders are caused by plaque, which is a sticky deposit that forms on teeth and can cause irritation, infection, inflammation, even bone lose. At its earliest stages, gingivitis is the result of plaque buildup near the gum line. This mixture of bacteria, mucus, and food particles may irritate the sensitive gum tissue, resulting in future dental issues.
The good news is gingivitis can be painlessly treated and reversed, if it is caught in time. But if it is not, the dental plaque will harden into a thick deposit known as tartar, which cannot be removed by normal means, i.e., brushing, flossing, rinsing. The only way to get rid of it is to have a dental professional remove it with instruments.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Disease in Pets
Even a mild case of gum disease should produce visible signs of irritation, including a reddening of the gum line around the affected area. In more advanced cases, the gums may actually bleed, which may cause a loss of appetite. Your pet may also have a hard time sleeping at night and may rub his face against soft surfaces. On occasion, his face may swell, making it harder for him to eat, bark, or meow.
What can you do to help your pet with dental disease?
No matter how cute and cuddly they may be, most pets don’t like people looking in their mouths. One again, this is a visceral vestige of their untamed days. Now, your pet probably won’t snap at you if you try to take a look at their teeth and gums, but they will, at the very least, struggle and try pull away. In other words, it will be unpleasant for the both of you, but there’s no way around it.
Large plaque deposits can turn to tartar in just three days! And as we mentioned, tartar cannot be removed with brushing or rinsing alone. At that point, you must make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian and your pet must be anesthetized, in order to remove these dangerous and destructive deposits. The time between dental procedures can be increased by introducing your dog or cat to brushing at an early age. They may not enjoy it, but in most cases they’ll get used to it. After all, it is for their benefit.
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Just as it is for human beings, brushing helps maintain oral hygiene in pets. How often you need to break out the brush depends on your dog or cat. Some breeds are predisposed to dental problems and may require regular cleanings, while others will only need it a few times a year. How can you tell who needs a cleaning and when?
The only surefire way is to examine your pet’s mouth firsthand. If your dog or cat has fetid breath, severely discolored teeth, red, irritated, or bleeding gums, or any combination of the aforementioned, he most likely has some form of gum disease. Depending on the severity of the disorder(s), it may be necessary to take him to his veterinarian for a professional cleaning. But in less extreme cases, you may be able to handle it at home. Be sure to ask about your pet’s dental health during your pet’s next veterinary exam.
Start a Brushing Regimen with Puppies and Kittens
Because they loss them in short order, it is not necessary to brush your pet’s baby teeth, only the permanent ones. With that said, it is often best to introduce the procedure at an early age anyway. Waiting until adolescence or adulthood could be disastrous, since your pet may not accept anything in the mouth, even from his owner. Toothpastes, rinses, gels, sprays, and other solutions are now sold specifically for pets. Most are designed to curb the growth of anaerobic bacteria, which is what causes dental plaque and tartar buildup.
Tools for Cleaning Your Pet’s Teeth
Simply use a pet’s toothbrush and message your pet’s gums several times before you introduce an actual pet dental product, which won’t be needed until his permanent teeth come in. And when they do, he will be familiar with the routine and should not give you too much trouble during cleanings.