Every year, the month of February is 'dental month'. This month, extra attention is paid to the importance of healthy teeth in your pet. On radio, TV, social media and in our practice you get information about dental care, prevention and periodic check-ups.
Did you know that four out of five dogs and two out of three cats of three years and older have dental problems!
Yet most owners think that this does not apply to their pets. Dental problems are not so easy for pet owners to recognise. That is why, once again in the month of February, you can make an appointment for a free dental check-up with the vet at one of our practices. Timely detection and treatment of dental problems prevents serious complaints.
Please note that this free appointment is only for checking the teeth. When there are other health problems and further (physical) examination has to be done, there will be costs involved and you might be asked to make a new appointment, if time does not allow to do this directly after the dental examination.
Cause and consequence
It all starts with plaque, a layer over the teeth that is formed from food residues, mucus residues and bacteria. We can feel plaque on our teeth when we have not brushed them for a day, for example, as a rough layer over the teeth. If this plaque is not removed, within 24 hours the conversion of plaque to tartar begins, as minerals from the saliva attach themselves to the plaque. Tartar is visible as a hard yellow-brown layer and is much more difficult to remove.
The bacteria in plaque and tartar can lead to infections, bleeding and inflammation of the gums. Gum inflammation causes the gums to recede from the tooth, forming what are known as pockets. Food particles and bacteria can settle more easily in these spaces between the tooth and the gums, speeding up the process. Roots of teeth can become exposed, inflamed and lead to loose teeth and tooth loss. This is all a very painful process, although most animals will not show any signs of it and will continue to eat as normal.
Bacteria that play a role in dental problems can enter the bloodstream via the enlarged blood vessels in the inflamed gums. This way, the bacteria reach the organs and can cause serious problems, such as heart valve inflammation and kidney or liver failure. Neglected dental problems can have serious consequences for the entire health of your pet.
What can we do about it?
Brushing is the very best way to prevent dental problems. Regular brushing removes plaque and prevents the formation of tartar. It is best to start teaching your pet to brush at a young age.
A brochure with brushing instructions is available free of charge at the counter.
When brushing the teeth of a dog or cat, it is mainly about brushing the outside of the teeth. Preferably brush with a brush and special toothpaste for animals. Normal "human toothpaste" is not suitable because it contains fluorine, which is harmful if swallowed. Moreover, animals find the menthol taste very unpleasant. Suitable brushes and good toothpaste for dogs and cats are for sale in our shop. Keep the brushing sessions short, reward good behaviour and build up gradually, and make it part of your daily routine with your pet.
Cats are often more difficult to teach to allow brushing. A good start is cheek massage. By rubbing the cheeks over the teeth, some of the plaque is already removed. Moreover, you stimulate a (healthy) blood circulation in the gums. The cat usually likes this cheek massage and learns that its mouth is touched regularly. Once your cat is used to this, it is possible to apply Hexagel, this gel cleanses and reduces plaque. If your cat lets you do this, it might even be possible to brush its teeth, we have very small special toothbrushes for this purpose.
Prevention can also consist of special diet food made of large hard chunks that have a 'cleaning effect' on the teeth. In addition, this food contains active ingredients that fight tartar buildup.
You can also give your dogs special chewing toys (such as Flosstoys) or chewing bones. Chewing has a cleansing effect on the teeth. At our practices, we now have a modest assortment of suitable chews that contribute to dental care. We prefer hard chews, without too many additives and not containing too many calories. Whimzees is a Dutch brand, which produces vegetarian, gluten-free and low-calorie snacks, especially for teeth.
There are also products from Orozyme with an active algae extract that prevents plaque formation. Our toothpaste is also from Orozyme. There is also a powder that goes over the food, a liquid that can be given in the drinking water or sweets in which the algae extract is processed. The Orozyme Buccofresh powder is for example used by many of our cats. Because brushing cats is more difficult to learn.
Unfortunately, once dental problems have occurred, preventive measures are not enough. The vet will then recommend a professional dental treatment. Under anaesthesia, the vet will clean the teeth with professional equipment. Teeth and molars that are loose or affected will be pulled. Finally, all teeth are polished. Any inflammations are treated afterwards with medication.
When everything is clean again, it is up to you to prevent new problems as much as possible. And a regular check-up, for example during the annual vaccination or dental month, ensures that timely action can be taken should any problems arise again.