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Pet Dental Health: More Than Just Bad Breath

What does dental disease in pets look like?
Symptoms of pet dental disease can include:

  • Bad breath
  • Changes in eating habits or chewing, such as a decreased appetite or favouring one side of the mouth
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Excessive drooling or discoloration of drool (brown or red)
  • Weight loss
  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums
  • Loose, broken or even abscessed teeth

What causes dental disease in pets?
Just like in humans, dental disease begins with the build-up of plaque and bacteria. However, due to a lack of dental care, such as daily brushings, this build-up progresses into more severe disease.

The stages of dental disease include:

  1. Stage 1 – Build up of plaque (bacteria, saliva and food debris).
  2. Stage 2 – Plaque turns into the harder substance tartar and causes gum irritation, and further bacteria build up.
  3. Stage 3 – Further plaque and calculus build-up, causing very painful gingivitis along the gum lines. Bleeding of the gums is not uncommon.
  4. Stage 4 – Periodontal disease forms, which causes tooth decay, bone loss, pain and severe infection. Due to the gum line recession, bacteria enter the bloodstream and can lead to more serious systemic disease.

How can we prevent pet dental disease?
The following are steps we can take that can help prevent our pets from developing more serious dental disease:

  1. Daily teeth brushing — It is the number one preventative step we can take to ensure our pets have a happy, healthy mouth. It is very important to begin brushing our pets’ teeth while they are young. Before the plaque has had a chance to build up into harder substances that brushing cannot remove. Even if you can’t use pet toothpaste, the mechanical action of the toothbrush works best.
  2. Feeding a veterinary formulated dental diet. Dental diets are designed to have larger kibbles, encouraging our pets to chew the kibble, allowing the edges of the kibble to scrape tartar off the surface of the teeth. The mechanical action of the chewing helps prevent plaque build-up.
  3. Feeding dental treats.
  4. Using dental health additives, such as water additives.
  5. Having a yearly health exam with your veterinarian.

What if my pet already has dental disease?
Just like humans, pet’s also need dental cleanings completed by a professional. These procedures involve a general anesthetic which allows your veterinary team to complete a full scaling and polishing of your pet’s teeth above and below the gum line, as well as complete dental x-rays to view jaw bone and tooth root health. These procedures can allow bad teeth to be removed, and prevent further disease of healthy teeth.

For more information on pet dental health or to book a dental consult contact us today at 902.477.4040.

Written by: Deborah Lewis, RVT

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