It is time to brush up on how to care for your pet's teeth and gums to ensure their ongoing good health and well-being.
Oral disease is the number one health problem vets diagnose in adult dogs and cats. It causes bleeding gums, dental decay, tooth loss and the bacteria accumulation can damage your pet's heart, liver and kidneys, yet according to Dr Guy Fyvie, Hill's Pet Nutrition's veterinary consultant, oral disease is easily preventable.
"Your dog or cat's smelly breath may be the first sign that it has oral disease," says Fyvie, who recommends regular veterinary check ups and a simple dental care regime at home to keep pets' mouths healthy and breath smelling fresh.
"You can clean your pet's teeth by brushing or by feeding specially formulated foods which clean the animal's teeth as it eats. These foods are convenient and effective, and have been proven to combat plaque and tartar build-up," says Fyvie.
"A strong immune system will help your pet fight disease, so it's also important to ensure your pet’s food has the correct balance of nutrients and is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals."
"We had no idea that you could even clean your cat's teeth," said Anlie Malherbe, whose cat, Tracey, suffered from severe gum disease. "We noticed Tracey wasn't eating well and she was losing weight, but were surprised when the vet diagnosed gingivitis. Unfortunately it was so advanced that antibiotics haven't cured it and Tracey is probably going to have all her teeth removed."
Pets can't tell you when they're ill
"Animals can't say how they are feeling and are good at hiding discomfort," adds Fyvie. "But anyone who has experienced toothache knows how painful tooth decay can be. Just imagine how you'd feel if you hadn't brushed your teeth for three years!" he adds.
If any of these symptoms are present the pet should be taken to the vet for expert advice:
Red and swollen gums
A yellow brown crust of tartar around the gum line
Pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth
A change in eating or chewing habits
Pawing at the face or mouth
- (Health24, September 2009)
Information supplied by Hill's Pet Nutrition