Yes, there is, in fact, an actual Pet Dental Month. And it’s August! Try to contain your excitement and read why this is a real thing.
So it’s not actually an international Government edict, but rather an opportunity to raise awareness on the prevalence of dental disease and the health issues it raises in our pets. Dental disease would be one of, if not the most common problem seen in our pets by vets across the world. Probably 50% or thereabouts of our pets older than 4 years of age have oral problems that impact on their health and comfort. Some of these problems can be life threatening. It’s worth reflecting that a couple of hundred years ago one of the main causes of human mortality was dental disease.
So what sort of issues are we talking about? The first sign of dental problems a lot of owners notice is foul breath. Sometimes this is subtle, sometimes the smell could peel paint and is obvious and is associated with a build up of plaque (bacteria, mucous, proteins and food particles) that accumulates and mineralises to form tartar. All this sets up a process of inflammation in the gums, or Gingivitis producing toxins and gasses that cause the swampy odour.
The problem isn’t just odour though. The inflammation causes bleeding, discomfort or pain and can interfere with eating. It also is the first stage of periodontal disease, where the gums recede and the ligaments around the teeth break down. This is accompanied by bone loss and more severe pain.
Other health problems can arise including heart disease, lung infections, kidney disease and sepsis.
The only way to treat these issues effectively is via a general anaesthetic and dental scaling and polishing, and sometimes even multiple tooth extraction. Effective dental interventions are only possible under an anaesthetic, in spite of some trends to advocate dentistry without a general anaesthetic.
Dental disease is partly diet related. However it’s also a factor of breed and body type, age, general health, saliva composition, abnormal dentition and a host of other factors.
I’m not a big fan of bones since they have a habit of breaking teeth and getting stuck in throats and intestinal tracts. A diet that is based around chewy dry foods, rawhide chews, fibrous treats, and chunks of cooked meat can make a huge difference. Additionally there are more specialist chews and mouth washes that help with higher risk breeds and patients. I say ‘cooked’ since raw meat has a higher risk of contamination. Cooked bones however are right out, and are especially prone to causing obstructions.
So, whats on in August? Vets participating in Dental Month are offering free dental checks and a range of free samples to give away. You just need to give us a call to discuss a checkup, and also to go over in more detail the preventative measures you can take to maximise your pet’s dental and general health and quality of life.
By the way it’s tick season now! All pets should be on suitable prevention.