Pet Care – Dental Disease

Peter Slade
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Oral health is of major importance to the overall health of our pets and presents an ongoing challenge for pet families.

Periodontal disease is the most common disease of adult dogs and cats. If not controlled, it becomes irreversible, may cause pain, discomfort, refusal to eat, oral infection, abcesses, loss of teeth and systemic complications such as bacteria lodging in the heart, kidneys and liver.

At Home Vet Service we have established a Periodontal Management Plan which is cutomised to each patient and their family.This plan is incorporated at the second puppy and kitten vaccination when we are able to prevent periodontal disease and also when we have a better chance of training our pets to tolerate brushing. Periodontal disease must be prevented or at least managed in order to avoid many of the nasty consequences of this disease. Also by maintaining optimum oral health we avoid expensive procedures such as teeth extraction surgeries and frequent dental descaling which requires that pets have a general anaesthetic.

What is the cause?

There are a number of risk factors which contribute to the progression and severity of periodontal disease, but ultimately, the initiating factor is the retention of plaque. This forms on the tooth at the gum margin. If not removed it grows, matures and causes further colonization of plaque on the inside surface of the gum where it meets the tooth.At this stage there is inflammation of the gums which is called gingivitis. Bacteria colonise the periodontal tissue( the tissue which is in immediate vicinity of the tooth) causing inflammation and damage to this tissue. As the disease progresses this periodontal tissue detaches from the tooth itself, causing wobbly teeth amongst other things.

So why are some pets at more risk and why do some pets get dental disease faster than others?

Many pets and certain breeds have problems with the conformation of their teeth and position of their upper jaw relative to their lower jaw causing areas where plaque is more likely to be retained.

Older pets tend to have accumulated peridontal changes over time and some may have a reduction in saliva flow which may increase incidence of periodontal disease.

There is a big difference in the characteristics and composition of foods fed to pets. Wild canines and felines eat natural prey and in doing so are required to chew various animal tissue which maintains oral hygiene to a large degree. This is through the mechanical forces that are required to masticate and the contact the teeth make with the food when chewing.

Some pets tend to chew their food whilst others swallow and it is this chewing action that can manually remove plaque deposits.

Some sytemic health problems contribute to periodontal disease. Therefore pets with dental disease must be examined by a veterinarian to rule out underyling problems.