Chances are that, no matter what time you read this month’s blog you are only hours from having just brushed your teeth or brushing your teeth again. We know that every time we eat, food debris and bacteria build up in our mouths. Regular brushing as well as flossing and mouthwashes help us to maintain great breath and clean teeth between routine dental cleanings with our dentist. Even with our dental routines we still end up with plaque and sometimes tartar build-up that must be professionally removed. With all of that in mind, it only makes sense that our pets require some sort of dental routine as well!

Dental disease is the most common health issue in dogs and cats. Incredibly, pets as young as 6 months old can start to show signs of periodontal disease and gingivitis. While some pets show symptoms related to dental disease right away (like bad breath and tartar build-up), some won’t show symptoms until the disease is quite severe (bleeding gums, no appetite). Eating is a favourite past time of most pets and so not wanting to eat usually indicates that there is severe pain or discomfort. This discomfort is usually a sign of tooth decay, gingivitis or sometimes even an abscess due to an infected tooth. While dental disease is obviously bad for the health of your pets’ mouth, it is also dangerous for your pets’ overall health. Bleeding gums can allow bacteria to enter your pets’ bloodstream resulting in bacteria infecting the heart, kidneys and liver. The older your pet is, the more hazardous this situation can be, and the more difficult to treat later on.

Just to be clear, plaque is clear and very sticky – it is the fuzzy stuff you can usually feel on your own teeth when you wake up in the morning. Bacteria loves plaque and so the longer it remains without being brushed away, the more problematic it can be. Plaque hardens into tartar over time – tartar is the brown, hard debris we usually see on the molars (back teeth). Gingivitis is an infection of the gums – the gum line becomes red in colour and, if left untreated, gingivitis causes bleeding. These issues can be present on their own or in any combination. Sometimes your pets front teeth may look quite clean but if you check the back teeth (behind their cheeks) it may be a different story.

It is very important to start an oral health routine for your pet. The younger they are the better it is to do as it gets them used to the concept of having you brushing their teeth. No matter what age your pet is, we can help you establish a routine that your pet will not only tolerate but maybe even enjoy! Brushing is best but there are also some incredible dental foods designed to help decrease plaque and tartar build-up. Don’t be fooled, not all dental foods work well so ask any of the Westway Animal Clinic team members if you want to know whether the one you are interested in is going to be right for your pet!

At the end of the day, regular professional dental cleanings can help you to keep your pets’ mouth healthy, and your pet happy, for a long time to come. February is celebrated as Dental Health Month in order to bring awareness to the importance of oral care. It would be our pleasure to assess your pets’ oral health and make recommendations that work for you and your pet – we believe in sweet smelling kisses, especially with Valentine’s Day just around the corner!