IT’S Dental Health Week and this year humans are being encouraged to also consider the health of their pet’s teeth while they’re in the dentist’s chair.
According to the Australian Veterinary Association, in 2016 it was estimated that there were more than 24 million pets in Australia. At 62 per cent, Australia continues to have one of the highest household rates of pet ownership in the world with around 5.7 million of Australia’s 9.2 million households having a pet.
With 80 per cent of dogs and 70 per cent of cats developing gum disease by the age of three, how do we ensure that our pets also have healthy teeth?
TAFE NSW Richmond Teacher of Animal Care, Norbert Fischer, said when it comes to dental health many of the problems that we have as humans are also the same in dogs and cats – particularly problems relating to accumulation of plaque and tartar, as well as broken teeth.
“On the other hand, dental decay, as is commonly seen in humans, is actually quite rare in dogs and cats, so fillings and root canal treatments are rarely necessary,” he said.
“The problem is, considering dogs and cats can’t talk to us to tell us something is wrong, we’re often not aware of any health problem until it becomes serious. Sometimes it’s not until they go off their food, drop food from their mouth, chew only on one side or drool excess saliva that we notice that they may be unwell.”
There are several things you can check for at home, as follows:
- Check gums for signs of inflammation (redness and swelling) or bleeding;
- Check teeth for accumulation of thick tartar (known as calculus by veterinarians), particularly the back teeth where serious problems are easily missed;
- Take note of bad breath which could mean an excess of plaque bacteria, or even a serious infection;
- Dropping food or chewing on only one side of the mouth is a common indicator of dental discomfort;
- Watch for unexplained drooling; and
- Look for pus near gums.
“By taking your pets for an annual dental check-up is also valuable. Vets, however, will also usually check the teeth as part of the annual vaccination check-up. Special dental check-ups are more often required when the vaccination schedule is less frequent (e.g. every three years in some situations),” said Mr Fischer.
“As well as an annual check-up and keeping an eye on the state of your pet’s teeth, by feeding them a balanced diet and plenty of exercise will help your dog or cat stay generally healthy.”
According to Animal Medicines Australia, Australians spend an enormous $12.2 billion per year on their furry family members.