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It’s easy to assume your pets’ mouth is fine. Why wouldn’t it be … they eat well and besides that they have shown no signs of pain or discomfort.

However, the fact is the vast majority of animals we see with significant dental issues, whether it be a dog, cat or rabbit, never came in for concerns with regards to their mouth. Many will be continuing to eat, or have subtly adjusted their eating habits despite pain, making the issue hard to spot. The amount of discomfort dogs and cats will live with for many years never fails to surprise us.

Indeed, the assumption that our pets will tell us when they have a problem is a common misconception and this fact is no truer than when it comes to their mouths.

So now that you know you are not going to rely on cues from your pet, how can you know if everything is okay? And this is where the ‘dental check’ comes in.

 

What is a dental check?

The dental check is the equivalent of visiting your dentist. Your pet will be assessed by a member of our veterinary team and it is a whole lot more than just identifying dirty teeth. We work through a checklist that includes gums, teeth, tongue and the mouth in general to spot issues that may not be apparent otherwise.

If you are fortunate enough to have a pet that passes a dental check with flying colours - congratulations. This is something to be very proud of. If you are taking steps to actively keep your pet’s mouth like this, then keep up the good work. If you do not currently do anything for your pet’s teeth then this feeling of euphoria is likely to be short lived, as the march of dental disease is relentless. So, the dental check will provide an opportunity for our staff to talk you through what you can do and even demonstrate brushing and other management methods - it’s not as hard as you may think. Let us prove it to you.

Of course, that isn’t all you’ll get from a 10-minute appointment. It provides a point of contact with us to check your pet’s weight, clip nails and ensure they are up to date with worming and flea treatment, as well as their other routine health care needs. A visit for your pet’s mouth may just result in us picking up other conditions your pet may have and result in early treatment and therefore a better result.

 

How often should I visit?

Naturally if you suspect problems you should come in immediately. But as we mentioned previously these signs can be very subtle and not a reliable way of knowing when your pet has issues. Therefore, we recommend dental checks every 6 months, regardless of whether you own a dog or cat. One of these checks can be included with your pet’s annual health check and vaccinations, so that’s only one additional visit needed for the year.

We have created a list of signs which should signal your attention …

  •       Red gums
  •       Tartar
  •       Blood on the food bowl or on toys
  •       Excess saliva around the mouth
  •       Loose teeth
  •       Bad breath
  •       Appetite change (avoiding hard food and preferring soft food)
  •       Pawing or rubbing their mouth

 

Why is dental disease important?

You might ask yourself, if my pet is eating fine, what is so important about looking after their teeth? Just like us, dogs and cats get dental disease with accumulation of plaque and tartar on their teeth. We know from studies that at least 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have evidence of dental disease by 3 years old. If left untreated, plaque builds up to cause periodontal disease which is when teeth start to become loose. Not only is periodontal disease painful for your pet, but it significantly increases their risk of tooth root infections. By this point you will definitely be noticing a bad smell on your pet’s breath.

Their issues won’t stop there. Now that your pet’s mouth is laden with bacteria either on plaque, periodontally or from an abscess, it’s easy for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. The veins are your body’s highway and so it is one quick stop for the bacteria to the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. What does this mean for health? Well studies have shown that pets with dental disease have a shortened life expectancy due to the complications above.

Thankfully, dental disease in pets can be treated and potentially reversed if caught early. Early identification is important to help delay progression, save teeth, save your pet from pain and save you money. We can help you create a tailor-made plan for your pet to keep them comfortable and healthy. These will include …

-        Brushing routines and equipment

-        Appropriate diet choices

-        Options for recommended dental chews or approved mouthwashes

-        Advice on when your pet needs professional cleaning (called a scale and polish)

-        Advice on whether your pet’s dental requirements have passed the limits of home care and cleaning and require extractions.

If we feel your pet needs a scale and polish, further investigation under anaesthetic or professional dentistry such as extractions, our clinic is fully equipped to do so. We can provide you estimates for these procedures at the time of your dental check.

 

A small note about rabbits:

The most common cause for illness in rabbits is associated with dental disease, which is commonly a result of the way we feed them in the domestic setting. Rabbits - unlike dogs and cats - have teeth which grow continuously and so problems can develop quickly, even within weeks. To further complicate this, you can only see their front 4 teeth, known as incisors. This is only a small fraction of their total teeth, indeed their most important teeth (molars) sit out of view at the back of the mouth. These can only be assessed by your vet with special equipment and sometimes requires the assistance of sedation.

We recommend dental checks on your rabbit every 3-6 months. The key features to identify that could indicate dental problems with your rabbit are excessive salivation, crusting of saliva under the chin or on the forelegs, a reduced appetite, a change in choice of foods they eat, or a reduction in faecal nugget number and size.

 

So don’t hesitate and get in touch with us today to book your appointment. We look forward to seeing your pet’s smile!



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