Pet Health

Puppy Puckers and Kitty Kisses

Oh, how I love kitty kisses with their scratchy tongues scraping my chin and those puppy puckers leaving slobber drips down my cheek; and with Valentine’s Day shortly upon us I am sure I will not be the only owner to indulge my pets with lots of cuddles.

But what I can’t hack is the dog/kitty breath that can make you gag at five, ten, nay twenty paces!  So why can our fur babies’ breath smell so badly? Simples peeps, it’s the lack of short and long term oral hygiene!

It is well known that good oral hygiene is linked to long term health benefits. Scientific research shows that poor oral care significantly increases the risk in contracting various ailments and I am not just talking about caries, periodontal disease and tooth loss.

Bacteria that originates in the mouth will travel around the body and can cause a host of health problems. Heart disease and stroke risks increase significantly in pets with insufficient oral health care. There can be an increase of dementia (yes cats and dogs can get dementia), respiratory problems, diabetes, infertility, these areas have been recognised as having a direct link to a lack of oral hygiene. Most scarily, some cancers that have been scientifically studied show the increase rate in those with poor oral care to be as much as 54%! This does not just apply to our cats and dogs it applies to us as well.

Would it shock you to know that 85% of all cats and dogs have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age? Shocked me…

What is Periodontal Disease? These are bacterial infections of the gums and the structures around the teeth. The earliest stage being Gingivitis which only affects the gums, often causing discomfort. Left unchecked not only do we put our pets’ future health in jeopardy, the long and the short of it is they will have an unsightly mouth, lose teeth, experience pain and have breath to die for!

So, what can we do to promote our pets overall oral health? You’ve guessed it…brush their teeth. Start to brush young pets’ teeth to prevent the build-up of plaque and decrease the chance of developing gingivitis and tartar. 

So, what if your pet is not a puppy or kitten? Go see your vet-  it is never too late to start oral care, however brushing on top of tartar will be of little use. A veterinary tooth clean is the only way to remove tartar above and below the gum line. Gingivitis is reversible, Periodontal Disease is not. But it can be slowed significantly if home dental care is then followed routinely.  There are other aids that will keep plaque at bay like certain ‘chews’ and particular diets that are recommended alongside regular brushing. 

This will not be for everyone; but it is for a lot of people just another part of owning a dog or cat. I place the same values on my pet’s oral care as I do my children’s and my own. Long before my husband opened his surgery he said that he didn’t want a waiting room full of sick and smelly pets. I understand him and get what he means. He has always practiced preventative medicine and after all the mouth is the gateway to the body.

Did I mention earlier how much I loved puppy puckers and kitty kisses? Even more so because I just love their sweet-smelling breath knowing I am looking after their teeth like I do mine. Every day is Valentine’s Day in our house – is it in yours?

Danielle Giles, Heathside Veterinary Surgery