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Why does my dog need a dentist?

Just like humans and hygienists, dogs need regular visits to the pet dentist

It’s a well-known fact that brushing your teeth twice daily helps to prevent dental disease, and this is true for our pets as well.

Daily teeth brushing with an enzymatic pet toothpaste is the best way to control dental disease.

But, if you’re anything like me, I can barely find time to brush my own teeth never mind the dog’s.

And, even if you do manage to find time to brush your pet’s teeth, you will undoubtedly still need a visit to the pet dentist here and there for a cleanup, just as we do with the dental hygienist.

By the age of three, 80 per cent of dogs have some form of dental disease, and this can be further exasperated by breed conformations causing poor tooth apposition.

Yorkshire terriers are well known for their dental issues, as are many of the short-faced breeds like pugs and Frenchies.

So what is dental disease and how can we prevent it?

Dental disease affects the teeth, gums and structures that support and surround a dog’s teeth. It starts as plaque – made up of bacteria and food particles – which then hardens to form tartar.

Tartar can be seen as a brown stain on the teeth and causes halitosis, or bad breath. When tartar gets below the gum line, it causes inflammation, infection and pain.

Bacteria in the plaque can also enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart, kidneys and liver, making the animal quite sick in some cases.

Ideally, we would clean the tartar off the teeth before any structural damage occurs, but in some cases, one or more teeth may need to be removed.

I have had patients which have had all their teeth removed and owners are always amazed at how much better they eat, even with no teeth at all.

Dentistry is a very satisfying treatment as the animal immediately wakes up feeling better, with no pain and a clean, fresh mouth.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard an owner say, “But he’s still eating!” when I showed them their pet’s dental disease.

My answer is always the same: “What choice do they have?”

Your pet doesn’t know that there is an option to go and get that painful tooth removed, and so it is up to us to recognise and treat dental disease when it is apparent, even when your pet is eating normally.

My own cat Foo, (who certainly would not let me brush her teeth without a fight that she would win), recently had a dental cleaning because she had some tartar build-up on her teeth.

She had one tooth removed and the rest scaled and polished. She immediately ate more comfortably and her whole demeanour changed.

She was more playful and affectionate, and it made me wonder if she had been in more discomfort than I had realised.

As vets, we always check your pet’s teeth at their annual wellness examinations, and that is a good time to make a plan for their future dental care.

That way you can budget for it and prevent dental disease from getting too advanced and causing pain.

Take a look at your pet’s teeth and see if you can see the telltale tartar build up or worse, gingivitis (inflamed gums) which are the hallmarks of dental disease. If you can, it may be time for a visit to the pet dentist.

Lucy Richardson graduated from Edinburgh University in 2005. She started CedarTree Vets in August 2012 with her husband, Mark. They live at the practice with their two children, Ray and Stella, and their dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. Dr Lucy is also the FEI national head veterinarian for Bermuda

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Published July 07, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated July 07, 2022 at 7:41 am)

Why does my dog need a dentist?

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