Elizabeth Rogers, DVM
Good oral health is an important part of good general health for your pet. Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs and is entirely preventable. Peridontal disease begins as bacteria in the mouth forms plaque on the surfaces of the teeth. Saliva hardens the plaque into dental tartar which becomes firmly attached to the teeth. The tartar that is seen visually above the gumline is not the cause of the disease; the plaque and calculus under the gumline traps bacteria that secretes toxins that create tissue damage when left untreated. Untreated dental disease can potentially lead to damaged teeth and peripheral organs (heart, kidneys, and liver). In people, periodontal disease has been linked to heart disease and diabetes mellitus.
Signs of oral health and dental disease in dogs and cats
· Bad breath
· Loose teeth
· Discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar
· Mouth pain or pet will not allow you to touch their mouth area
· Drooling or dropping food from the mouth
· Bleeding from the mouth
· Loss of appetite or weight loss
Signs of oral health and dental disease in rabbits and exotic companion mammals
· Weight loss
· Decreased or no appetite
· Difficulty eating or dropping food out of the mouth
· Digestive disturbances
· Changes in fecal size, quantity or appearance
· Excessive grooming
· Excessive drooling or salivation
· Difficulty breathing
· Excessive tear production
· Nasal discharge
· Tooth grinding
· Bulging of the eye
Dental Care and Prevention
Prevention of the most common oral disease in cats and dogs consists of:
· Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth- daily is best but it’s not always possible – so several times a week can be effective
· Dental specific diets
· Oral rinses
· Dental specific treats
Prevention of dental disease in rabbits and exotic companion mammals consists of:
DIET – It is obviously not possible to prevent all types of dental disease. Your rabbit should be fed a diet of unlimited grass hay and a good amount and variety of fresh leafy greens daily. Avoid feeding an exclusive diet of commercial pellets. In addition, offer other items to chew upon such as fresh tree branches (from trees that are NOT sprayed with chemicals), untreated wood pieces and unvarnished, unpainted wicker baskets. Providing a healthy diet will ensure adequate wear of all the teeth. IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO CONVERT A PET TO A HEALTHY DIET. A natural diet has a myriad of benefits beyond just good teeth; it is literally the foundation for good health.
EXAMINATIONS AT HOME – Be familiar with the appearance of your pet’s teeth. You will only be able to see the incisors, but take a good look at least once a month. Your veterinarian or experienced rabbit friend can help show you how to perform the exam. Report any changes in shape, color or texture of the teeth to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
VETERINARY EXAMINATIONS – As mentioned, your veterinarian should examine your pet at least once a year. Part of a thorough physical examination on a rabbit is a dental exam. Merely examining the front teeth is not sufficient. Cheek teeth may have early disease that will be missed so the entire mouth needs to be examined.