Most humans go to the dentist on a regular basis (or at least, know that they’re supposed to!) We know the importance of having our teeth cleaned and examined. However, many pet owners don't stop to think about the oral health of their animals. Just like humans, dogs develop plaque and tartar on their teeth. If these substances continue to build up over time, there can be some very serious consequences for your pet. These consequences don't just involve the teeth. There are several health problems that your pet can develop as a result of poor dental health.
Common Dental Problems in Dogs and Cats
The primary problem that dogs and cats will develop if their teeth are not kept clean is gum disease. This is a result of plaque and tartar that develops at or below the gum line. The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis characterized by red and inflamed gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis which causes an erosion of the bones supporting the teeth and can lead to tooth loss.
|Rin, our resident senior, is all smiles!!!|
Dogs are also susceptible to cavities. These can become very painful and lead to abscesses and tooth loss. Some dogs will have enormous jaw swellings from painful abscesses of the teeth.
General Health Problems Related to Gum Disease
Problems with the teeth and gums are bad enough for your pet. However, gum disease in dogs and cats can cause a host of general health problems for your friends. Abscesses in the upper teeth can lead to sinusitis and infection of the occipital region. These will require long courses of antibiotics for proper treatment.
Bacteria entering the bloodstream from infected gums have been proven to contribute to numerous problems in dogs and cats. In dogs, bacteria from the gums can cause problems with the heart including endocarditis. Liver disease in dogs has also been attributed to bacteria from gum disease. In cats, bacteria entering the bloodstream from the gums are believed to contribute to kidney disease.
Ways to Combat Pet Dental Problems
The first line of defense in combating pet dental problems begins at home. Pets should have their teeth brushed every day. There are special dog and cat toothpastes and toothbrushes on the market to make this job easier. Pet owners can also help keep tartar down by giving their dogs and cats high-quality kibble based food to eat. Animals given only a soft diet tend to develop more dental issues. Feed your dog crunchy biscuits designed to break down tartar as a treat.
|*Image of a smiling a dog courtesy of Ms. Anderson.|
As with humans, dogs and cats should have regular dental exams and cleanings provided by their veterinarian. Veterinarians have the tools to safely and effectively remove plaque and tartar deposits from the teeth of both dogs and cats. During this examination, the veterinarian will check for signs of cavities and other dental problems. Animals should have their teeth cleaned at least once a year. Some animals may require more frequent cleanings.
If pet owners will diligently clean their pet's teeth at home, many serious health problems will be avoided. Do what’s best for your best friend and don't neglect your pet's dental health.
Erica Anderson is a veterinary technician and writer from Arizona. She loves writing about parenting, gardening, and pets.