By: Peta Gay Railton
Our pets’ diets are getting worse and it’s coming at a huge cost — pet dental problems. But there are simple steps you can take to make your pet’s life healthier and happier.
How do you spot a pet dental problem? Breath odour is a sure sign. If your dog’s breath stinks, it usually means they’ve got an infection. Get them to the vet immediately!
Don’t let it get to that stage.
How to check for pet dental problems
You need to learn the technique for looking at your dog’s teeth. People mostly lift up the front lips and look at the front teeth. But you need to pull the gums back and look back there. Few people do because it’s not easy. When you look at the back teeth, you will see brown discoloration, which is tartar. And within that tartar will be pus and it’s gross. Do you want that?
Occasionally a dog has fishy breath, or dog food breath, but stinky breath is dental disease. Sadly, these problems are common.
The added complication is that 60 per cent of the problems we only pick up with our dental X-ray. Until then you can’t see if one of the roots of a tooth has disease. If an infected tooth root is the problem, I predict the animal will be back in six to 12 months.
It’s so painful, even though animals don’t show pain. People think the animal will stop eating. But I’ve seen dogs with dental disease so bad their jaw fractured, and they were still eating. If a dog isn’t going to eat, it will die. So they eat no matter how much it hurts.
Cat dental problems
Dogs don’t get cavities like we do. But cats do, and they get gingivitis that goes straight through the nerve and is painful.
Sometimes you can tell if a cat has dental problems because it stops eating biscuits and only eats soft food. But again, the vet is the best person to diagnose that.
Cats mostly get periodontal disease at the junction between the tooth, gum, and bone. A lot of cats are allergic to plaque and gingivitis is a reaction to the plaque.
How do pets clean their teeth?
When your dog gnaws on a bone, it is cleaning its teeth. A dog biscuit is no substitute. Imagine crunching a cracker in your mouth. Would your teeth finish up clean? A cracker can’t clean your dog’s teeth.
Bones are the best for cleaning dogs’ teeth. As dogs gnaw they use a scissors-like action to self-clean their teeth on something that’s hard. But there are dangers. Dogs can fracture their teeth on bones, but it’s a balancing act—would you prefer your dog to have a mouth free of dental diseases, and risk the chance of a slight fracture?
Bones are, without question, the cheapest way of keeping your dog’s mouth clean. But even when your dog chews bones every day, you still need to keep an eye on its jaw and teeth.
If your animal has a sore mouth, it won’t chew on that side and it soon becomes diseased if they’ve got pains from a broken tooth, or a root that’s diseased. The same furriness happens to us if we don’t clean them every day. That’s plaque, and it hardens up to become tartar. Dogs get tartar too so they need to chew on something different every day.
Keeping a cat’s teeth clean
Like dogs, cats need to gnaw. But people have stopped giving cats anything but commercial cat food.
You can get special biscuits, like Hills t/d biscuit and normal products like Greenies, if you don’t want your animal having a raw bone.
Cats will put their paws down and refuse to eat if you try to force them, and then they’ll get sick. If cats don’t eat for a couple of days, they will get ill, and then not want to eat because they don’t feel well.
So you will need to ‘shandy’ in the new foods for about three weeks. Then, gradually take away what they’re used to eating. You can’t force cats to do anything. You have to ask them nicely.