What does pet health look like?
Welcome to the June edition of our ‘We Are One Health’ pet owner blog series for 2019, aimed at exploring and raising awareness on a whole host of topics related to our lovely companions.
June is National Smile Month, so in this instalment we will make sure that your pets’ teeth are being taken care of just right so that both you and they can show your best smile this month! And with the new Royal Veterinary College’s VetCompass research showing that dental disease was one of the three conditions having the highest impact on dog welfare, it really is time to think about the health of all your pets’ teeth and gums.
Why is pet dental care important?
Oral hygiene is essential to your pet’s overall health and wellbeing and is as important for them as it is for us humans. Understanding a bit more about how you can improve their dental health, whether they are a dog, cat, rabbit or hamster, allows you as an owner to ensure that more serious issues and complications don’t arise.
As humans we know that toothache is one of the worst pains there is. Bear in mind that our pets don’t have the ability to verbalise their pain so may well be suffering in silence. However, they do send out subtle signals that we should be able to read, in order to tackle issues before they get worse.
Pay attention to signals
Bad breath – halitosis – can be the first alarm bell. Halitosis is often caused by bacteria in the mouth so you will need to look in your pet’s mouth for tartar on the teeth. Left untreated tartar can lead to gum inflammation – gingivitis – whereby gums become white or red, with signs of swelling.
Both halitosis and gingivitis can lead to more serious issues including periodontal disease, kidney disease, liver disease, lung disease, and gastrointestinal problems due to toxins and bacteria entering the bloodstream. Pay attention to the warning signs of bad breath and swollen gums, as clearer signals such as loss of appetite or vomiting often only appear in a late stage of disease. If any subtle signals are noticed, contact your veterinarian to discuss treatment and prevention of further disease options. If any clearer signals are noticed, pay a visit to your vet as a matter of urgency.
How to keep your pets’ teeth clean and healthy every day?
So now you know the warning signs, how do you stop them appearing in the first place? First of all, make sure you are giving your pets’ teeth a daily clean to help catch or prevent bacteria from getting trapped between the teeth and remaining in the mouth to develop into something sinister.
In one of our previous blogs, we gave you some useful tips on how to take care of your dogs’ dental health, however, the rule for a thorough daily clean is pretty much the same for cats too: brushing their teeth with species specific toothpastes, and feeding them specially designed dental diets. If this is proving difficult to do on a regular basis, check with your vet, who can perform a thorough dental check as well as a deep clean under general anaesthetic if needed. Any further problems can then be detected and addressed appropriately.
The Animal Trust recommends these deep scale and polish procedures if you can spot severe reddening to the edge of their mouth or chalky materials building on their teeth. Despite not being invasive or dangerous, your pets still need to be relaxed to enable a thorough and deep cleaning therefore, the procedure must be carried out under a general anaesthetic. It takes about 20-40 minutes, where your pets will get plaque and tartar removed and their teeth polished with high-speed polishing tools. The whole procedure has not only cosmetic benefits, but it also helps preventing further health issues from happening in the first place.
For smaller animals, such as rabbits, daily brushing is not required, however, they do need to be checked at least annually by the vet. It’s also important to provide a high-fibre diet that promotes chewing and wear of the teeth – did you know rabbits teeth grow nearly 1cm a month, adding up to around a metre over its lifetime? As with any pet, monitoring their mouth and gums is vital paying close attention to signs of decreased or selective appetite, dropping food, increased salivation, eye discharge, jaw swelling or overgrowth of incisors.
Dental X-rays for our pets
Dental x-rays are becoming an important part of diagnosing and treating dental disease in our cats and dogs correctly. Sometimes what can be seen above the gumline can be deceiving for what can be found underneath. Especially in cats, your vet can perform dental x-rays to check for resorptive lesions which affects 1 in 3 cats. This is often a painful disease and subtle changes like swallowing dry food without chewing or only wanting to eat wet food can be noticed. If resorptive lesions are found, unfortunately, the only treatment option is to remove the tooth. Luckily, cats are much happier without those teeth than with painful teeth.
What can I do now?
The most important tip we can give is to take daily care of your pet’s mouth in the most appropriate way for them – whether this is brushing for cats and dogs or providing high-fibre food for rabbits – and making sure their teeth and gums always look and smell healthy! Good dental care means improving the quality of their lives, reducing the occurrence of serious dental diseases, and avoiding unnecessary pain.
Now that you know more about dental health, we assume that you’re ready to be inspired by one of our champions! Read Sarah’s interview and find out how he/she takes care of Zuri’s teeth.
How do you make sure Zuri’s teeth are always clean?
We try to clean Zuri’s teeth every week using a puppy toothbrush and toothpaste. Although we try to limit the treats that we give Zuri to keep her as healthy as possible, we do also use a few dental treats every now and again that help with dental hygiene as Dachshunds have notoriously bad teeth and we’re keen to prevent any issues before they arise.
What is Zuri’s daily oral cleaning routine like?
We have a toothbrush for her that fits on the end of your finger and you massage the teeth and gums with it. I can’t say she enjoys it so it is a bit of a challenge each day, but she tolerates it just about!
Why do you think it is important to perform a thorough and deep oral cleaning on a regular basis?
All dogs can be susceptible to bad teeth in their later years and we’re very aware that this can really contribute to bigger health issues. Bad teeth and the issues they might cause will be painful for Zuri and will also be very expensive for us as owners so dental hygiene is definitely one of our top priorities.
Have you got any other tips on how you keep Zuri’s dental health in tip-top condition that other pet owners could follow?
Healthy chews help and also a good diet with plenty of water. If the dog’s overall health is good it is likely that they will have healthy gums and be less likely to suffer from decay and other health issues.