Many pet owners complain about their pet’s bad breath. Unfortunately, most cats and dogs don’t have their teeth cleaned - certainly not twice a day like we do - so the most common cause of halitosis (bad breath) is caused by bad teeth.
The problem can range from mild gingivitis where the gums look red, to severe periodontitis where teeth are covered in brown tartar and there may even be tooth root abscesses.
Although our pets do not demonstrate dental pain like we do - ie they don’t go around with their head on one side numbing the pain with Nurofen and whiskey - there's no doubt that they do get toothache.
A large number of owners comment on how much brighter and livelier their pets are after a dental.
Although it might not stop them eating, that dull ache gets them down just as much as it would us. Animals have their teeth checked at their yearly vaccination and it is often then that the vet picks up any early dental problems. It is much easier to treat an early case of gingivitis by scaling and polishing the teeth rather than wait until the animal has severe dental disease resulting in a much longer anaesthetic to remove teeth.
After having a dental, your vet can recommend a food that you can feed your pet to help keep your pet’s teeth clean. A diet called t/d (tooth diet), available for cats and dogs, is specially formulated to act like a toothbrush to help prevent tartar build up and provided it is fed as at least a ¼ of the diet, it does help keep the teeth clean without you having to brush them.
If the teeth have severe gingivitis or a deeper infection it is important that the animal has a dental as a matter of urgency. The infected gums provide a source of bacteria, which can get into the bloodstream. Once in the blood, these bacteria can deposit in major organs such as the kidney, liver and heart valves.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure. A diet consisting of chews and biscuits helps keep the tartar away. If you are really dedicated you can brush your pet’s teeth. This is much more successful if starting with a puppy or kitten and generally canine pets are more willing than feline! However, if you persevere it can certainly delay or even avoid the need for dental treatment in later life.