Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy takes a little bit of effort, but it is an easy way to help your furry friend live a long and happy life. Unfortunately, many people believe stinky breath is just a normal part of having a cat or dog. It’s not!
In fact, smelly breath is often the first tip-off of early stage dental disease. If you get up in the morning and go to work without brushing your teeth, would your work colleagues notice your bad breath? For the majority of pets that aren’t having their teeth brushed daily, the bacteria and plaque simply continue to accumulate. That awful ‘doggy breath’ smell most people think is normal, is actually made up of hundreds of bacteria and infection.
Most pets need a scale and polish at the dentist (aka vet) every 6-12 months to rid their mouths of this accumulation of plaque and tartar, just like you do. And that’s even if they do have their teeth brushed daily.
So what do plaque and tartar look like?
Lift your pet’s lip and look at the area where the gum and the tooth. Firstly, if you are seeing a red rim of gum around the tooth, you are seeing gingivitis, which is a fancy name for inflamed (painful) gum. The brown sticky stuff on the tooth itself is plaque. If the gingivitis is moderate, this tooth may still be able to be saved with a cleaning.
The teeth in the image below are all diseased. Stage 1 disease is reversible, but the other teeth will most likely need extracting.
Pets that have painful teeth still tend to eat surprisingly well. The process of dental disease is so gradual, they just learn to tolerate that pain and infection. For some pets, cats in particular, jaw chattering or grinding the teeth can be a sign of pain in the mouth. Dogs will often become head-shy and dislike having their mouths opened or heads touched. This combination of course often makes it difficult for pet parents to work out what is going on in their pet’s mouth.
If you are not sure whether your pet has dental problems, check with your vet. Any adult pet should be getting their teeth checked every 6-12 months.