If your petÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s breath wipes the smile off your face, it probably has oral disease, the most common pet health problem.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society 80% of dogs and 70% of cats already have signs of this painful and potentially life-threatening condition by age three.
Most people understand the importance of brushing their own teeth every day. Yet many donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t realise that veterinarians recommend a daily dental routine as the best way to protect petÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s oral health too.
Brushing teeth, or a special diet, will remove plaque, the primary cause of oral disease. If not removed, plaque mineralises into tartar, which can cause gingivitis and periodontal disease. Symptoms include discoloured teeth, smelly breath, tender and bleeding gums, pain, tooth decay and tooth loss. Furthermore the bacteria present can enter the bloodstream and infect the heart, liver, kidney and lungs.
To protect your petÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s overall health, keep its breath sweet and mouth in tip-top condition, Dr Guy Fyvie, spokesman for national HillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Pet Dental Month, recommends four simple steps:
# Firstly visit your petÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dentist Ã¢â‚¬â€? the vet. They will examine the mouth and where necessary, recommend a thorough cleaning under anaesthetic.
# Secondly, start a daily dental regime at home, which involves either brushing or feeding specially formulated foods.
# Ensure your petÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s diet has the optimum balance of nutrients and is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to keep the immune system strong and healthy.
# Schedule regular veterinary check ups that include a dental exam.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We had no idea that you could even clean your catÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s teeth,Ã¢â‚¬Â? said Anlie Malherbe, whose cat Tracey suffered from severe gum disease. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We noticed Tracey wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t eating and she was losing weight, but were surprised when the vet diagnosed periodontal disease. Unfortunately it was so advanced Tracey had to have all her back teeth removed. And now sheÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like her old self again, enjoying her HillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s food and really playful.Ã¢â‚¬Â?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Animals canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say how they are feeling,Ã¢â‚¬Â? said Dr Fyvie. Ã¢â‚¬Å“But anyone who has experienced tooth ache knows how painful tooth decay can be. Just imagine how youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d feel if you hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t brushed your teeth for years!Ã¢â‚¬Â? he adds.
Symptoms of oral disease
# Bad breath
# Red and swollen gums
# A yellow brown crust of tartar on teeth
# Pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth
# A change in eating or chewing habits
# Abnormal drooling
# Tooth loss
# Going to the food bowl but not eating
# Swallowing food whole instead of chewing
# Dropping food out of the mouth
# Pawing at the face or mouth
# Listlessness or subdued behaviour
All pets are at risk for developing dental problems. Once a pet displays any of these warning signs serious oral disease may already be present. Rather start a preventative programme of dental care today to maintain good oral health throughout a petÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s life.