Oral disease can shorten the life of your pet

When was the last time you had a good look in your pet’s mouth? By three years of age, up to 80% of dogs have some degree of dental disease. Not only does this cause bad breath; it also leads to chronic oral pain, loss of appetite and eventually destruction of jaw bone and loose teeth. If that is not bad enough, the infection in the oral cavity can spread through the blood stream to the vital organs, causing irreversible damage to the heart, kidneys and liver.

 

Dental disease begins with the formation of plaque, an accumulation of food, saliva and bacteria. Over time, this soft layer gets mineralised to form tartar, a hard substance attached firmly to the tooth surface. Plaque and tartar are recognised by the body as foreign and as such, the immune system launches an attack on the mouth. This leads to inflammation and destruction of gum tissue and bone. Weakened jaw bones can fracture with very little pressure, even chewing a treat or toy. These pathological fractures quite often don’t heal and results in a portion of the jaw needing to be amputated.

 

When oral infection is severe and the bacteria in the mouth are released into the bloodstream, they can settle on the heart valves leading to valvular leakage and eventually heart failure. The bacteria can also land in the kidneys where they form tiny abscesses leading to deterioration of kidney function and over time, chronic renal failure. Many dogs with dental disease also have elevated liver enzymes. This indicates oral bacteria cause infection and liver tissue damage too.

 

Don’t ignore bad breath, discoloured teeth and red gums! Your pet needs diligent oral care from you and your vet to live a full and healthy life. This includes brushing your pet’s teeth daily and using oral products like gels and chews. Most pets will also need to have a professional scale and polish procedure at the vet annually to keep the teeth and gums in top shape.

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