Dental health is a common concern for animal owners. Animaltalk’s Vet Q&A addresses the topic with a response from Dr Leon Loots.
I have a 7-year-old Labrador and a 6-year-old ginger cat. Both are healthy and eat well, but my Lab’s breath does not smell good. Could it be that he needs dental care and should I take my cat at the same time?
Dental problems in both dogs and cats are very common. The first symptom that pet owners usually notice is bad breath, but if you were to lift the lip you will probably see tartar build-up on the teeth (especially the molars) and possibly a red line around the teeth indicating gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).
Most vets will do a dental check when you take your pets for their annual vaccination and make recommendations, but sometimes it is necessary for a special visit if you see your animal is having difficulty chewing or has severe halitosis.
Here are some ways to make sure your pet’s teeth stay clean:
- Dental chews can help a lot if you offer them regularly (at least twice a week), this works well to maintain clean teeth.
- There are diets available which are specifically formulated to help clean teeth. The fibres in the kibbles are woven in such a way to help scrape off tartar when the animal bites through it. This is an aid to maintain clean teeth. They should be given every day, not just when you notice problems.
- Brushing will keep teeth clean but it is difficult to get an adult dog used to brushing, not to even mention the cat! For teeth brushing to be successful you would have to do it a few times a week, starting from a young age.
- Mouth rinses or sprays use a chemical action to clean teeth but this must also be applied regularly to be effective.
- A manual scale and polish. This is the method of choice for very severe dental disease. This is done at your vet and your pet will require an anaesthetic for this procedure. Often one can continue with other methods after a good scale and polish to maintain the clean teeth, but if plaque build-up is severe this is the only method that will work. Some animals require a scale and polish every few years regardless of other methods used.
Text: Dr Leon Loots, Bloemfontein. Photography: cynoclub
For more advice on your pet’s health, get the latest issue of Animaltalk magazine. Visit Coolmags.com for subscription details.