Ensuring healthy oral health for your furry friends 

By Jyotika Rajkumari*

Dental issues in pets, especially in dogs and cats, are extremely common. Dental care is a crucial aspect of your pet’s overall health and well-being. Just like humans, pets can suffer from dental issues and if left untreated, can lead to discomfort, pain, and even serious health issues. Dental health is vital to maintain the overall well-being of your furry friends. Without teeth, the survival of pets is particularly challenging and may require special diets tailored to their needs. 

Awareness of dental anatomy, disease progression, and dental care options builds a foundation for better dental health.

Understanding dental disease

Dental issues in pets start when plaque (combination of food remains + Bacteria in the mouth) hardens into tartar (i.e. hardened plaque) below the gum line and becomes damaging and infectious to tissue and the jawbone. Dental disease is commonly referred to as periodontal disease. It has two distinct phases.

  1. Gingivitis – which is the inflammation of the gum tissue, is considered reversible with proper care.
  2. Periodontitis – As gingivitis worsens and bacteria continue to accumulate above and below the gumline, periodontitis occurs. Periodontitis is inflammation of the area surrounding the tooth and is considered irreversible but can be managed through intensive and consistent dental care. 

Plague migrates from above the gum line to below the gum line, where the underlying structures supporting the tooth become infected. As the infection seeps further in, it allows access to bacteria and its by-products to the blood. Through the bloodstream, these harmful bacteria circulate throughout the body affecting vital organs such as the kidney liver and heart.

It is important to be able to identify the indicators which include: 

  • Bad breath
  • Discoloured teeth covered in tartar
  • Abnormal chewing
  • Drooling excessively, and changes in eating habits
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Bleeding or swelling gums
  • Changes in behaviour such as irritability or reluctance to play

If you see any of these changes, seek veterinary care promptly.

Addressing and treating dental problems

Professional dental cleanings will be performed by your veterinarian at the clinic. The veterinarian will evaluate the severity of the dental disease and will arrive at a treatment protocol-

  • ▫ Evaluation of the oral cavity for abnormalities; 
  • ▫ Pre-anesthetics tests will be recommended, and your pet will be put under anaesthesia during the cleaning procedure.
  • ▫ Scaling the teeth to remove tartar buildup
  • ▫ Polishing of each tooth to negate enamel damage; application of anti-plague substances for protection.
  • ▫ Dental radiographs are performed as part of the procedure to further monitor structural health below the gumline.
  • ▫ Depending on your pet’s individual needs, your veterinarian may recommend professional cleanings annually or more frequently if dental problems are present.

Prevention is always better than cure

Home care consists of brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Vets recommend brushing your pet’s teeth every other day if not daily, as plague can be brushed away easily before it hardens, which takes between 24-48 hours. Start by using a pet-specific toothpaste which is formulated to taste good and includes bacteria-fighting enzymes.

  1. The diet you feed your pet can also influence their dental health. Providing a balanced diet that includes high-quality protein and minerals. Feeding wet food instead of dry food can help prevent the accumulation of plaque on the teeth.
  2. Dental treats and chew toys designed specifically for cats and dogs can aid in removing plaque and tartar while providing mental stimulation. Canine India has many varieties of specific appropriate dental chews which are preservative-free for your pets.
  3. Additionally, using a good quality plaque off powder can help get rid of bad breath and tartar formation.

Tips to keep in mind

  • Start young. The earlier in life you get your pet accustomed to brushing the easier the process will be in the long run.
  • If your pet is extremely uncomfortable with a toothbrush, ease your pet by using a Q-Tip or pet-safe dental wipes and gently clean their teeth.
  • Periodic examination by your veterinarian is always recommended.

* Jyotika Rajkumari,a South Delhi resident working at Bharti Industries, shares insights from her experiences navigating pet healthcare in Delhi’s clinics, advocating for pet owners to prioritize their companions’ oral health through her guide “Dental Basics for Pets

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