At Warren House, we advise that your pet’s dental hygiene is just as important as any other routine and preventative treatment Like humans, pets can develop a build-up of tartar, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
Brushing your dog or cat’s teeth once or twice a day is the best option for good oral hygiene.
We do have other products such as liquids to add to your pet’s water to help reduce plaque build-up and reduce bad breath (halitosis) as well as veterinary dental diets. Teeth brushing is the very best course of action though for your pet’s dental and oral health. We can discuss these different products and diets that may be of interest to you at any of our surgeries.
Treating dogs and cats
Dogs and cats can be very good at hiding signs of oral pain and dental disease. Some animals with severe dental disease, including root exposure, severe gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and tooth root infections, will continue to eat, showing only subtle signs that something is wrong. This often leads to an animal requiring multiple extractions of teeth, we can combat this by providing daily tooth brushing.
What are the signs of dental disease?
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Visible tartar build-up on teeth
- Red or inflamed gums (gingivitis)
- Discoloured teeth
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Slow or reluctance to eat
- Chewing on one side of the mouth
- Dropping food from the mouth when eating
- Swelling around the mouth (from potential tooth root abscesses)
How can this be prevented?
The best way to maintain healthy teeth is to brush your pet's teeth daily. This is easiest to start when your pets are younger but can be introduced at any age. The team would be happy to help with advice on introducing this to your cat or dog.
It can also be beneficial to have a scale and polish performed regularly to clean the teeth thoroughly. This is similar to the treatment we would receive from a dental hygienist. These are done under a short general anaesthetic as our patients won’t sit in one position for a prolonged period and we must ensure their safety and the team’s safety when in the vicinity of sharp teeth!
Why does dental disease occur?
Food and saliva that is left behind on the teeth will form plaque on the tooth. Plaque is soft and can be removed by brushing or using alternative dental products.
If not removed, the plaque will harden forming tartar, which is difficult to remove without dentistry intervention. If tartar is not removed (normally via dental de-scaling) then bacteria will spread below the gumline, causing red sore gums. This is called gingivitis and periodontitis, which in turn can lead to lose teeth, infection of the tooth root and jawbone infections.
Cats also get another form of dental disease known as feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs). It has an unknown cause, but 75% of cats are thought to be affected. It is particularly common in cats over five years but can occur at any age.
In these lesions, part of the tooth is eaten away by the tooth itself, forming a small hole in the enamel close to the gum line. These lesions are very painful for cats and can lead to tooth fractures as they weaken the teeth. They require extraction to resolve.
Rabbit dentistry and nutrition
Rabbit’s teeth continue to erupt throughout their lives. This allows them to grind down course feed substances such as grass and plants in the wild. Many domestic rabbits are fed a mixture of hay and commercially available diets. Commercially available diets are lower in fibre and higher in protein, fat and energy. This means that rabbits quickly achieve their nutritional requirements, unlike in the wild when they would need to graze all day and forage to meet the same energy intake from food. This can not only lead to obesity and boredom, but it can also lead to dental disease due to lack of wear of the teeth. Less time grinding and a lower intake of indigestible fibre can lead to the formation of molar spurs, which if severe, and allowed to progress, can cause tongue and cheek lacerations.
This can also cause secondary issues as indigestible fibre and chewing also promotes gastrointestinal motility, so diets low in fibre and higher in carbohydrates (such as muesli or pelleted diets) can cause the gut motility to slow, causing retention of the digest within the gastrointestinal tracts, leading to changes in the pH and microflora.
Rabbits are hindgut fermenters. This means that they rely on bacteria within their hindgut to break down and absorb food. Changing the pH and microflora can therefore lead to diarrhoea, gut stasis and unfortunately in some cases, death. For this reason, diet is an important factor in keeping your rabbit healthy and happy.
What signs may I notice at home that may indicate my rabbit has dental disease?
- Reduced appetite, or not eating at all
- Reduced number of faecal pellets produced
- Reduced or inability to ingest caecotrophs- leading to a 'messy bum.'
- Runny eyes
- Hypersalivation and drooling
- Facial swelling due to secondary dental abscess
If you detect any of the above signs, make an appointment for a vet to examine your rabbit as soon as possible.
The vet has detected dental disease; what does this mean?
If the front teeth (incisors) are too long these can be shortened, this is usually performed on a conscious rabbit, but this depends on temperament.
If there is malalignment of the incisors (meaning that they don't contact each other when closed), then shortening the teeth may provide a temporary fix, but the removal of the affected incisors may be more appropriate to prevent the need for regular burring- this is something your vet would advise you on.
If there is spurring (sharp edges) of the back-cheek teeth (molars) then a general anaesthetic will be required.
What can I do to help prevent dental disease?
Feed a well-balanced diet high in fibre.
A rabbit's diet should be mainly made up of hay (70%). As a guide, this means that a rabbit should eat its body size in the hay a day. This increase grinding, dental wear and promotes gut movement.
Pellet foods are advised over a mixed muesli as rabbits will pick their favourite parts of the food often leaving the most nutritional parts. Feed a maximum of one tablespoon/ day for dwarf and standard rabbits, and two x tablespoons for giant breeds.