Our veterinarians are often asked, “Why do I need to get my pet’s teeth professionally cleaned? Aren’t dental chews and water additives enough?” While the methods we listed in our last blog post are effective in maintaining teeth in between professional cleanings, here you can learn a bit more about what can happen if your pets’ teeth are if they are left unattended.
Improper oral care can lead to chipped and broken teeth, periodontal disease, tooth loss, infections, and ulcers. All of these things can be extremely painful for your pet.
A chipped tooth may not be an emergency for you, but it can be extremely painful for your pet. Humans have a 5 millimeter layer on the outside of their teeth. In domestic animals, this later is about ½ of a millimeter thick. The second layer of the tooth is porous and connected to the nerve of the tooth. This means that even a small chip can cause excruciating pain in your dog and cat.
When our pets suffer, it is a silent pain. Cats and dogs have an instinct to not show pain, as this would make them appear weaker in the wild. Therefore, you may need to actively look for signs of discomfort. Canine and feline dental anatomy is much more forgiving than humans; their teeth are shaped like scissors, so the teeth are not constantly touching like ours. This means that their teeth might only hurt when eating, chewing, or playing. Observe how she’s eating. Does she always chew on one side? Is she dropping food? Has she begun growling at her food? All of these things can be signs of pain while eating.
Oral pain can also change your pet’s behavior. She may seem sad and lethargic, and may not engage in play anymore. The most obvious sign would be if she stopped eating altogether.
Our vets recommend avoiding certain items that can be too tough on your pet’s teeth and cause damage. Tennis balls are a popular dog toy, but their wooly surface is like sandpaper. Overtime, they will wear down and flatten you dog’s teeth. Antlers are known for being long lasting chews, but they are much too hard for dogs and can cause significant damage. Plus, dogs don’t eat antlers in the wild. You shouldn’t give your pet real animal bones, either. Not only can they splinter and cause choking, they can also break your cat’s or dog’s teeth. Our vets also advise against Nylon bones and ice cubes (if you pet bites them.) Without regular checkups, these toys can cause additional damage and lead to more severe problems.
The best way to ensure healthy pet teeth is to have them checked by your veterinarian on a regular basis. It’s much easier (and safer!) to prevent painful injuries than to treat them once they happen.