Pet Dental Care
Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health issue faced by our pets, with 80% of dogs and 70% of cats diagnosed with dental problems by the age of three.(1)
Dental problems affect much more than teeth. If left untreated, dental disease can suppress the immune system and lead to other degenerative diseases including heart disease, not only in pets but in humans too. People and pets with dental disease are twice as likely to suffer from a heart condition.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) states that about 2/3 of pet owners do not provide appropriate dental care for their pets, largely because they are unaware of just how important dental health is. Some consider it a daunting task at best, and others assume that an annual cleaning at the vet is enough. With today's highly processed commercial pet food diets, unfortunately that is not the case.
Let's spend a few minutes talking about what dental disease is and how it can affect pets, and then talk about a natural approach to dental care that will help keep your pup's breath fresh and teeth sparkly clean!
Understanding Dental Disease
How Plaque Builds Up
Luckily, dogs are not as prone to cavities as we humans are, but they still develop plaque build-up and gum disease.
- Gum disease begins when plaque (colonizing bacteria) starts to form at your pet's gum line against the teeth. This bacteria collects, and if not removed, it hardens into tartar which sticks to your their teeth.
- Over time, the tartar build-up creates inflammation, causing the gums to redden and eventually recede. The receding gums create very small spaces where more bacteria collects.
- This bacteria slowly eats away at the bone and causes pain, infection, abscesses, loose teeth, and bone loss. At this point, the gums and teeth become extremely painful and cause your pet to no longer be able to eat.
How Dental Disease Affects Overall Health
When the gums break down, this provides a path for bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Studies have shown that bacteria from dental disease can be strong enough to often survive the immune response. If the immune system is unable to fight off this bacteria, it will then circulate throughout the body and damage your pet’s heart, liver, and kidneys, and compromise nearly every aspect of their health.
Signs of Dental Problems
Signs of dental issues in your pet include:
- Bad breath
- Red gums, including redness along the gum line
- Discolored teeth
- Difficulty chewing
- Pain while chewing
- Blood in the mouth
- Pawing at the face
When pets have infected teeth and gums, the pain they experience can cause them to stop eating, and they can become weak and malnourished.
Damaged Teeth - Should They Be Removed?
If your pet's tooth has been damaged or infected, talk to your vet. The tooth may need a filling, or if the damage is more extensive, it may need a root canal or extraction. One of the decisions you may be faced with is whether to move forward with a root canal, or choose to have the tooth extracted.
The answer is largely dependent on which tooth has the problem (some are more important than others when your pet chews). If possible, the preference is always to save the tooth with a root canal. If the tooth cannot be saved (e.g. if the tooth has been significantly fractured or is very damaged), then the only option may be to remove the tooth. Sometimes, even though saving the tooth is the best option, the cost may be too expensive, leaving extraction as the only choice.
Natural Approach to Pet Dental Care
When looking at dental health, we need to look beyond the mouth at what factors help create healthy teeth and gums, and what factors contribute to tooth and gum decay:
Treating Infected Gums
When treating infected gums, if the infection is severe and your pet is in pain, head to the vet for professional help as soon as possible. This is especially important if sore gums and teeth are affecting their ability to eat.
For minor infections and abrasions, use a cotton swab to gently apply one of the following remedies directly to the infected area 2-3 time each day. This will help inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Remedy 1: 1 teaspoon oregano oil with 2 teaspoons coconut oil
Remedy 2: 1 teaspoon coconut oil or 1 tablespoon water with 2 drops grapefruit seed extract
Remedy 3: Colloidal silver
If you see no improvement, or any worsening after 2-3 days of treatment, head to your vet.
Schedule a Professional Teeth Cleaning
For tartar buildup, consider anesthesia-free dental care. Naturopathic veterinarians and veterinarians with a more natural approach to dental care often recommend this non-invasive procedure. Many offer this service at their clinic, or can recommend a professional who does. Putting a dog under anesthesia is not a minor event and more and more pet owners are opting for this procedure instead.
If your dog or cat already has significant plaque build-up, it is best to have the plaque removed by a pet dentist, in which case anesthesia at your vet's office may be your only option.
- Healthy & balanced pet diet
- Why pets are getting sicker
- Treating common pet injuries
- Pet first aid kit
- Pet-proofing your home
- Preparing for a new pet!
- Pet food recalls
- Fleas, ticks, & mosquitoes
- Natural dog grooming
- Pet vaccinations