Raise your hand if you brushed your teeth today…ew, really? Why am I the only person with a hand in the air… I see nobody is humoring me. Let’s just pretend. OK, now keep your hand up if you brushed your dog or cat’s teeth today. Interesting. Since NOBODY is raising their hand, let’s talk a little about the dangers of pet plaque (and a host of other issues).
Did you know that an estimated 80 percent of dogs have significant oral problems, and their owners have no idea that they’re suffering? Cat owners, you’re not much better. Around 70 percent of all cats have significant oral health problems by the age of three. And dental disease doesn’t stop at our pet’s mouth; it can also cause heart problems and drastically shorten a pet’s life!
It’s recommended that we brush our teeth after each meal and floss at night, but we usually settle on a morning and nighttime brush with the occasional floss. Our pets’ teeth are very similar to ours, but we tend to neglect their dental hygiene. Not only can this cause some horrendous breath, but the cause of that stench is usually bacteria, which can lead to serious, and EXPENSIVE dental problems.
Common Oral Health Problems in Pets with Poor Oral Hygiene
If you ignore your dog or cat’s teeth, they will develop oral health problems that are painful and dangerous. Some common problems include:
Gingivitis – Inflammation of the gums that can be painful for your pet.
Periodontitis – General disease in the oral cavity that attacks both the gums and the teeth.
Pyorrhea – Inflammation in the gums and the tooth sockets, which can cause the teeth to loosen and create puss around the tooth.
Caries – Decalcification of the tooth enamel that leads to cavities. While rare in dogs, they can happen.
Plaque – Buildup of bacteria, cells and polymers on the teeth often at the gum line.
Tartar – Calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate combined with plaque that creates a hard buildup on the teeth.
Feline odontoclastic resorption lesions – Painful lesions that eat away at healthy oral tissue and lead to tooth destruction in cats.
Oral cancers – Oral cancers can affect both dogs and cats, and if they are not found quickly, they can be fatal.
Gingivostomatitis – Inflammatory condition of the oral tissue causing red, swollen tissue that bleeds easily. This condition affects cats.
That all sounds a little overwhelming, gross, and scary, but it’s AVOIDABLE!
Food with a “crunch" is one of the easiest ways to keep your pet’s dental hygiene in check. Each time your dog or cat crunches, the food acts like a little toothbrush, cleaning the surface of their teeth. Some of our pets may require a soft food diet, but there are delicious dental-friendly soft food options as well.
Another helpful tip: periodically purchase a package of pet dental chews (particularly for pets prone to plaque-related problems like periodontitis…OK, I’m done). These dental chews will scrub Scruffy’s teeth, likely keeping him safe from the ill-effects of bacteria buildup.
However, the BEST way to keep your pet’s teeth healthy is through regular visits with your vet. They might be able to see, diagnose and fix a problem for a fraction of the cost of an issue left untreated. A simple scaling (pet teeth-cleaning) can not only keep your pet’s mouth healthy but can improve their overall health.
It’s true that some breeds are more prone to dental problems than others, but all breeds will require dental cleanings and maintenance for their best health. Please help your pet stay happy and healthy by keeping their teeth as clean as you keep your own.