Pets get toothache too!

Dogs and cats often suffer from tooth and gum problems. Some of the problems are linked to poor mouth hygiene. Others are due to diseases (such as cat flu) or injuries to the teeth. Some dog breeds, such as labradors and German shepherds, have a mouth design that tends to stay healthy without much intervention.

Others, particularly those with small, narrow, or overcrowded jaws (poodles, greyhounds, Yorkshire terriers, pugs), are afflicted by more problems. Adopting a pro-active approach with these can save on dental procedures later. Avid tennis ball or stone chewers can end up with heavily worn canine and back teeth. The carnassial teeth (the really big back ones) can break from chewing rocks or unsuitable bones.

These worn or broken teeth can develop tooth root abscesses (ouch!). The picture on the left shows teeth with parts of the roots missing in blue – eaten by abscesses. The ancestors of domestic dogs, in the wild, would maintain healthy teeth and gums via the consumption of skin and bones of their prey; the teeth would be scraped in a similar manner to a brush. Modern diets, whether dry or tinned do not provide the same action.

Cats also suffer from tooth root abscesses (usually their teeth break while fighting, or landing badly) and loose teeth (periodontal gum disease). However, they get FORLs (Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions “neck lesions”) and flu-related disease too. FORLs are holes in the teeth at the gum-line. They can be excruciatingly painful. As they progress, the hole gets bigger and the entire crown can snap off. Occasionally, the first we know of it is a mouth that has teeth missing! Some cats with chronic flu or FIV (cat AIDS) have very inflamed cheeks and backs of mouths. For a proportion of these, extracting the teeth can bring about a marked improvement.

Getting your pet used to having their teeth inspected regularly from a young age, and having an annual check-up at the vet, will help identify problems early. Starting to brush the teeth BEFORE they have developed advanced gingivitis is important! If brushing, the action of brushing the teeth is more critical than the choice of toothpaste. There is a wide array of mouthwashes, pastes, chews, and dental biscuits available. All are useful, but none are individual miracle workers, and need to be used as part of a strategy.

Prevention is better than cure. We offer a free dental check-up. Come and see us!

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