Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common findings in pets nowadays and can often lead to secondary complications, which may prove fatal if allowed to persist. Unlike humans pets do not clean their own teeth on a regular basis and therefore need to be checked regularly. It is only through exercising the gums and teeth of your pet with the proper feeding and regular dental check ups that the following dental problems and complications can be avoided.
1. Tartar and Plaque: A build up of tartar and plaque on the teeth of your pet can often be insignificant. In the longer term, if allowed to persist and accumulate, a favourable environment for bacteria develops. Severe build up often occurs on the molar teeth at the back of the mouth and appears as a large grey or brown mass. The mouth can become quite sore and your pet may find itself unable to eat some types of food. It can be removed quite easily by the Vet and thus prevents and further problems depending on the severity of the build up.
2. Gingivitis: This is a bacterial infection of the gums surrounding the teeth causing inflammation and severe irritation. Ultimately teeth can be lost due to the loss of their supporting tissues. This is the major reason for teeth loss in dogs. Clinical signs of this condition include a change in the colour of the gums from pink to red or purple, swelling of the gums, bleeding gums and puss oozing from the gums. Uraemic smelling breath is common. Gingivitis is reversible with proper teeth cleaning, but if untreated, can lead to periodontitis.
3. Periodontitis: This is the destructive inflammatory process of teeth that is induced and driven by bacterial plaque that contains specific bacteria that destroys the gums, tooth enamel, bone and cement. It usually occurs after years of development of plaque, tartar and gingivitis. It is irreversible and results in permanent loss of tooth support. This condition generally begins at 4-6 years of age and if untreated progresses to tooth loss.
NB: Both Gingivitis and Periodontitis are most commonly found in pets fed on tinned or soft food. Pets fed on a hard or dry diet develop fewer problems due to the mechanical cleaning effect of the food on the teeth of your pet.
4. Feline Stomatitis Complex: The oral cavity of the domestic cat may result intensely to disease and result in painful, severe inflammation of the oral cavity. Causes of this severe condition include Feline Leukaemia, Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, severe Cat Flu, Kidney failure, Diabetes, debilitating diseases and malnutrition. Initial treatment includes controlling or eliminating the cause and aggressive dental therapy with mandatory home care. Unfortunately many cats have advanced disease and are far too painful to allow home care, as large-scale teeth extraction must be carried out.
These conditions result in a breakdown of the natural protective barrier in the gums and allow an invasion of bacteria in to the bodily system, leading to immunosuppression and eventually terminal kidney failure.