When you get close to Boot’s or Max’s mouth, does it smell bad? Can you see brown debris (tartar) on your pet’s teeth?
Dental disease (tartar, gingivitis and periodontitis) are the most common illness noted in our patients that are over 1-year-old. Why does this happen?
Dogs and cats develop gum disease exactly the way humans do; soft tartar builds up along the gum line. This tartar is irritating to the gums. As the gums swell and are irritated by the soft tartar, they pull away from the roots of the teeth and this allows other bacteria and tartar to accumulate and root exposure can get worse. Hard tartar (calculus) builds on layers of soft tartar. Once the hard tartar starts to accumulate, dental instruments are needed to properly get the calculus off and to smooth the enamel. At this point, brushing, Dentastix and some diets will not work to clean up the teeth. Bad breath comes from bacteria growing on the tartar you can see on the teeth.
You can help your cat and dog avoid the bad breath, tartar accumulation and the pain that goes with dental disease. Don’t wait for ‘obvious signs’. Many owners will tell me that their pet is not in pain because they are still eating even when there is obvious tartar, gum disease and horrendous breath present. Well, our pets have to eat, so even if it hurts, they still eat. Most pets learn to eat around the painful areas of their mouth. Watch your cat, do you see him or her pick up the dry food with its tongue and not chew the food? Often, they will swallow the pieces whole. For dogs, they will become fussy in what they will eat, or will chew on only one side of their mouth to avoid the pain that comes with dental disease. Certain dental foods and treats or brushing your pet’s teeth can help prevent tartar and plaque from building up, but those approaches are not a cure once calculus has formed on the teeth.
If you notice bad breath, tan or brown staining on the teeth, talk to a veterinarian about what can be done to return your pet’s mouth to health. With proper treatment, they will feel better and your pet will thank you.
Dr. Linda Speizer is a veterinarian at Oromocto Veterinary Hospital.