Poor oral hygiene in pets is associated with a number of health risks. The main risk is that pets will develop periodontal disease. Unhealthy gums, like those inflicted with periodontal disease, can result in loose or sore teeth, and difficulty eating. Periodontal disease can even affect the major organs of the body.
Poor oral hygiene in pets is more serious than most pet owners realize. Roughly 70-80 percent of cats and dogs develop periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. That’s a significant figure, especially, since poor oral hygiene is also linked to shorter life span.
The first stage of poor oral hygiene in pets is, typically, the accumulation of plaque near the gums. Otherwise known as gingivitis, this condition can be treated, but animals will likely require teeth cleaning, with anesthesia, in order to scrape off the plaque. Signs of gingivitis can be evident through an examination of the animal’s mouth. A red line along the base of the teeth, instead of the bright pink color that signifies a healthy mouth, is an indicator of gingivitis.
Gingivitis is actually a bacterial infection. When left untreated, the bacteria begin to move under the gum line, infecting the teeth at their roots. This is periodontal disease, and it has numerous symptoms. These include bad breath, excessive drooling, yellow or brown tartar deposits on the teeth, red gums, and loose or missing teeth.
Periodontal disease is not curable, but it can be treated. Treatment generally involves extractions of severely infected teeth, regular cleaning appointments, and antibiotics to help reduce the infection. If left untreated, the infection can enter the blood stream where it can cause damage to the liver, heart, and kidneys.
Poor oral hygiene in pets can be forestalled with a few steps. Dry food is always best for cats and dogs. Wet food and people food actually helps plaque develop more quickly. Dry food, conversely, should help keep a pet's teeth from developing significant plaque.
Poor oral hygiene in pets can also be avoided, or at least diminished, by making tooth brushing routine. This can be challenging with an older animal that is not used to it. Tooth brushing habits should start early, using a bit of gauze to wipe the teeth, so the pet gets used to activity.
Once the pet has this down, buy a pet size toothbrush and pet toothpaste. Do not use people toothpaste as this can make your pet sick. Try to brush at least once a week, although three to five times a week is ideal.
If your pet refuses brushing, some products which can be added to the pet’s water may be effective in reducing plaque build-up. These products have no odor and color, and may be a good way to go for the pet that fights through brushing attempts. Pet biscuits can also be a great way to combat poor oral hygiene because they also help the teeth shed plaque build up.
If you notice signs of poor oral hygiene in your pets, be certain to visit the veterinarian as soon as possible. It is better to get an early start on combating the issue, rather than allowing your pet’s health to deteriorate.