On the occasion of International Dental Health Day held this week, we decided to also refer to our four-legged friends. “Maintaining the health of the teeth is the key to the health and well-being of our pets. Instilling the habits of maintaining oral hygiene from a young age of the dog or cat can help prevent dental and gum diseases, and other health problems related to them, at a later stage” explains Dr. Paul Salon, certified veterinarian and director of scientific relations for Royal Canin in Israel.
The science behind dental care for pets
Unfortunately, dental and gum diseases are among the most common health problems in cats and dogs: 3 out of 4 dogs over 3 years of age suffer from them. Over 80% of dogs and most cats will develop gum disease during their lifetime. Although the disease is reversible in the early stages, as it progresses, it may cause pain and eventually cause tooth loss, worse, bacteria from the gingivitis may find their way into the bloodstream and in severe cases cause inflammation of the heart. Understanding how we can help prevent this condition from developing is critical to the pet’s health, as is developing an effective treatment.
The current method of measuring the accumulation of bacterial plaque on the teeth requires an evaluation by a qualified veterinarian. This is time consuming and subject to human error. The team at the Mars Group’s Waltham Pet Research Center turned to an approach used by human dentists, Quantitative Light Fluorescence (QLF), to see if it could also work in pets. QLF imaging detects the natural fluorescence of the plaque, so it can distinguish the differences between healthy teeth and teeth covered with bacterial plaque and these differences can be accurately analyzed by a computer. This gives a very visual representation of where plaque covers the surface of the tooth, allowing dentists to diagnose problems and recommend effective interventions.
Is my dog at risk?
The March Pet Research Center, Waltham, in collaboration with the Enfield Pet Hospital Network, analyzed how common gum disease is among 48 of America’s most popular dog breeds and concluded that small breeds are more likely to develop this condition than larger ones. These findings are particularly interesting, in light of the fact that according to a recent survey conducted among dog owners in Israel, there has been an increase in the adoption and breeding of small dog breeds such as Shih Tzu and Pomeranian.
What are signs that your pet is developing gum disease?
First, make sure your cat or dog is comfortable with you touching their mouth. Their gums should be pink (redness means inflammation, a sign of disease), and their teeth should be white with minimal tartar build-up. Tartar can build up invisibly below the gum line, so pets need regular oral health checkups. Also, pets, especially cats, will usually hide their pain, so be sure to pay attention to the following signs:
- Bad smell from here
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Problems eating (especially with downing food when eating)
- Don’t play with their favorite toys often
- Avoiding contact with the nose or head
- Sneezing or nasal discharge
- Bloody saliva
- Weight loss
- Lumps under the eyes or in the mouth
- Gum reduction
- The animal is distant and less enthusiastic than usual
4 steps to keep your pet’s teeth healthy
Dental and gum disease in pets develops gradually and can be stopped if caught and treated early, so prevention is better than cure. Dental diseases can be prevented in four simple steps:
1. Brush your pet’s teeth at home – Establishing an oral hygiene routine from a young age can help pets not suffer and maybe even enjoy daily brushing. Recommended to download A simple guide to brushing your cat’s or dog’s teeth.
2. Oral health tests – The pet should be taken to the vet for an oral health checkup every 6 months. The veterinarian will examine the teeth for tartar and the gums for inflammation (gingivitis) and will recommend specific treatments if necessary.
3. dental chewing – Chewing may also help prevent gum disease, and some can even reduce tartar. Dogs love to chew, encourage it with toys that can contain a “surprise” inside. Eating Be sure to choose safe toys to protect the dog’s teeth.
4. Combination of designated dry food – In terms of dental health, there is a clear advantage to dry food. For dogs particularly prone to dental disease, it is recommended to consider feeding a dry food specially designed to help reduce tartar build-up.
A home care regimen that includes daily brushing, scientifically proven dental chewing, and regular veterinary check-ups ensures that you are doing your best to maintain good oral hygiene for your pet.
Courtesy of Dr. Paul Salon, certified veterinarian and director of scientific relations for Royal Canin in Israel
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