By Sarah Fields
Our pets now enjoy a longer and richer life, due to advances in medical care and improved diets. Until recently though, one area that has always formed an important part of our healthcare regime, has been overlooked and poorly addressed in our pets – dental and oral hygiene. Whilst we all spot obvious signs of health problems such as, flaky skin, runny eyes, etc. how many of us wrinkle up our noses in disgust when our pet yawns in our face and discount the yellowing teeth as something all animals have and not something to be unduly concerned about?
If you are one of them – you are wrong. Dental disease is the most common disease of adult dogs and cats and, as it’s name suggests, it is a disease and one that can have lasting and sometimes, disastrous consequences. Dental disease not only causes bad breath, pain, discomfort, bleeding gums and infected teeth but can affect the whole body, particularly the heart valves and the kidneys, as bacteria spread from the mouth into your pet’s bloodstream. Dogs with tooth disease have been shown to have more than eight times the incidence of endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart) and five times more heart murmurs(1). When older pets have a valve related murmur, it is often due to bacterial deposits on the valves. A very common source of this bacteria is dental disease.
The good news is that it is easily preventable, the bad news is that current estimates suggest that 85% of pets over three years of age suffer from gum disease of varying degrees. As it one of the single most important things a responsible pet owner can do to maintain good condition, why is the number of pets with poor oral health so high? Several reasons may apply:
* dental disease is slow in progress and owners don’t always know what signs to look for
* modern convenience foods for pets such as tinned wet foods are promoted purely for their nutritional value, but they stick to the teeth providing a breeding ground for bacteria and the formation of plaque.
* pets are significantly longer lived and therefore the disease has a longer time to develop
Pet companies are responding though, as pet owners become more aware and are demanding better solutions to the problem of tooth and gum decay. A barrage of dental treats, special foods and chews are available and they can improve oral hygiene significantly. However, prevention is always better than cure and by far the best way to prevent dental disease is by brushing and needs to be part of every pet’s daily routine. If we took our children’s oral health as we do our pets, imagination what their mouths would look like by the time they were twelve!? Imagine the amount of lost teeth and dental work required! Dental work in pets can be extremely expensive, but to neglect your pet’s oral health is putting them at risk, not only in the long term with the associated health issues but also due to the need for a general anaesthetic required to carry out most dental procedures.
There are several things all you can do cheaply and effectively to prevent tooth and gum problems;
* Feed a complete dried food, use a wet food as the odd treat
* Brush daily if possible, but even once a week will make a huge difference
* have your pet’s teeth checked regularly by your veterinarian
* give chews and treats designed to help clean the teeth
Prevention is better than cure and keeping your pet’s mouth healthy will make a big difference to their long term comfort and well being. On average, pets with good oral health live 15 percent longer, or an average of 2 years!
(1) Dr. Marty Becker, McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT)
Promoting pet dental health http://www.woofnwhiskers.co.uk/healthcare-dental-care-c-57_106.html
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