February is national pet dental month, each year we aim to raise awareness of the severe problems poor dental hygiene can cause your pet. 80% of dogs and cats over the age of 3 years suffer from dental disease.
Why should I brush my pet’s teeth?
In all my time as a consulting veterinarian, we have never seemed to get to the root of the problem, brushing our pet’s teeth daily. We would not dream of abandoning our own toothbrush for a day, let alone a lifetime. So why don’t we set aside a few minutes a day for our family members with fur?
We see the same problem on so many occasions, an older pet needing an anaesthetic and a considerable amount of teeth removed. A poor, worried family and a forlorn much-loved pet with a mouth full of painful dental decay and gum disease. Bacteria in plaque and tartar cause sore gums, smelly breath and lead to tooth loss. On entering the bloodstream it can even cause organ damage!
The PDSA shows just how the problem develops with this great image from their website (www.pdsa.org.uk)
Life is busy, it may feel as though we cannot fit another job on our to-do list. But, we hope to show you it really doesn’t take up too much time. Once in a routine, it takes a matter of minutes. You can even get the family involved. We can prevent this, with daily brushing and a monitoring exam from your veterinarian or veterinary nurse, so let’s get started!
How will I know if my pet has dental problems and what should I do?
As we know, our pets are masters at hiding pain, especially our cats. Despite being a cat only vet practice we missed the early stages of our own cat’s dental disease. You can read Marmalade’s story here.
Signs your pet may have dental problems include;
Pain when eating or eating less
Pawing at the mouth
Cats not grooming
Unusual grumpiness when handling their head area
If you do have any concerns you should always consult your veterinarian first.
When should I start brushing my pet’s teeth and where do I begin?
There is no time like the present! Start your puppy or kitten while they are young. This allows you both to build a routine. Yes, they will lose their baby teeth but by the time their adult teeth are here, you will have a tip-top tooth brushing routine in place to protect them. For older pets, you may need a vet check first and certainly if there is any sign of pain or problems.
Here is a quick video of Oliver demonstrating how to start brushing your puppy’s teeth, along with a visual guide from Walthams which you may find helpful.
We also have a video of Sarah showing how to clean your cat’s teeth and a written guide from the VCA hospital.
Our complete dental care kit contains everything you need https://bit.ly/PetstoreoDentalKit
Remember, we cannot use human toothpaste as fluoride is harmful to our pets!
We are also developing our exciting KISSCatCare and KISSDogCare preventative health schemes. KEEP IT SUPER SIMPLE – a monthly weigh-in, exam and photo of your pet’s teeth all carried out by you at home with our help. Stay tuned for more details soon!
As a family, we have vowed to brush our pets’ teeth EVERY day for the next year! Why not join our challenge and send us your pics and clips?
William’s Story ……
This is William, a lovely 12 year old DLH ( Domestic Long Hair cat ) presented to us as his owner had noticed a lump in his mouth on his lower jaw. After careful examination we found a large collection of hair encircling William’s lower right canine, removal of the hair revealed a large defect in the tooth exposing sensitive tissues, part of a common cat dental issue called Tooth Resorption. His owner booked him in straight away for treatment.
Please note, William even with this very painful mouth appeared to be eating normally and apart from the lump was exhibiting no signs of pain. This is especially important in cats as they are exceptionally good at hiding all types of pain and so we have to be very diligent as owners to regularly examine our cats if possible.
As dental procedures are often lengthy, we minimised the risks to William by performing general health blood sampling prior to the anaesthetic to ensure his kidneys and liver were functioning as they should. To protect his circulation and ensure blood pressure and hydration were adequate an intravenous catheter was placed prior to any medications and a fluid pump allowed us to regulate the fluids William received.
Drugs given before the anaesthetic include an opioid painkiller and a mild sedative. This was then followed with a short acting injectable anaesthetic to allow a tube to be placed in his windpipe and allow oxygen and inhaled anaesthetic which the body can clear quickly direct entry to his lungs. His airway during the procedure was further protected with absorbable sponge to stop fluids from the scaler and drill gaining entry. Blood pressure was monitored so action could be taken if any concerns.
Dental radiographs are taken to assess the tooth roots. This is of paramount importance as a tooth can look healthy at the crown but has underlying root pathology that only an x ray will pick up. (We perform dental radiography on all of our dental patients to ensure they receive optimal care and assessment.) The following radiographs show some of the pathology affecting William’s teeth – you can see the tooth looks mottled as if it’s being eaten away – this is a painful process but cats being cats tend to hide any outward effects of pain, so William’s owner never knew he was in discomfort as despite how awful these radiographs look, he was still eating! As we mentioned earlier. Can you imagine if this was a person….
Tartar was removed by ultrasonic scaler and once the mouth was clean multiple extractions were performed after dental nerve blocks (this gives additional pain relief after the procedure and can allow the amount of anaesthetic given at the time to be reduced). William needed surgical extractions, so sutures are placed in the soft tissues with very fine absorbable material.
As you can see, William ended up with further extractions than just the ones we thought on clinical examination, this is because the x rays showed tooth resorption starting in the other teeth (see green arrows) even though they looked normal from the outside.
His recovery was smooth, and we have seen him back for check-ups at 1 and 2 weeks after the operation. We always recommend ongoing pain relief and feeding of soft food until we are happy that the post op check-ups are going well. William had a bit of infection evident at his first check but after a course of antibiotic he had healed well by the second check. His owner is happy to continue ongoing dental prophylaxis if he will allow it and of course regular dental assessments.
We do hope William will enrol in our KISSCatCare Program, and do some WETs every month. In this program we encourage once a month weight check, examinations and teeth checks (with images if possible). This can all be recorded in the pets own portal and is invaluable in helping your cat live a pain free healthy life. Please ask for more information or go to https://kisscatcare.petstoreo.com for more information and our early Beta release.