Dental Disease in Companion Animals

by Ryedale Vets

by Liz Curtis BVMS MRCVS, Ryedale Vets

What is your first thought when a vet asks you to start brushing your dog or cat’s teeth?

As a vet myself I have had many different responses to that little nugget of advice over the years! Just like humans, dogs and cats should be having their teeth cleaned regularly to try and reduce the build-up of harmful plaque and tartar in the mouth.

In the majority of cases however this is not happening, and so dental disease becomes a regular occurrence and something we deal with as vets and nurses on a daily basis.

The first sign of a dental problem, many owners will report, is a bad smell from the mouth and usually picked up because kisses with ‘Fluffy’ have become something to avoid! However, often there are no signs of dental disease as pets are very good at hiding discomfort in the mouth and so the dental disease can go unchecked for many months.

By the time we see them, there is usually significant tartar build-up and often we have started to get infections in the gum that lead to severe gingivitis and root disease. These cases will require a dental procedure under general anaesthetic to clean and sometimes remove any severely diseased teeth.

As in humans, the absolute best way to prevent dental disease is regular tooth brushing. The best time to introduce brushing teeth is in puppies and kittens. In these first few months of life, we are getting them used to people, kids, other pets, traffic etc. so why not add in tooth brushing too? In pets where we have already lost that window of opportunity or where tooth brushing is absolutely not possible then regular checking of teeth at home and bringing in to see a vet or nurse for a dental check is the next best thing.

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