Alarming Number of Pet Dental Issues Sparks Urgent Call to Action

Alarming Number of Pet Dental Issues Sparks Urgent Call to Action

According to a VetCompass study from the Royal Veterinary College that was supported by Agria Pet Insurance, dental disease is the most common disorder diagnosed by vets in dogs, affecting one in eight of every dog in the UK every year.

 Keeping your pet’s mouth clean and healthy is all part of being a responsible pet owner. Poor dental health and gum disease are so common that the British Veterinary Dental Association states that most dogs over three have gum disease requiring treatment. According to The Royal Veterinary College, periodontal disease (ie dental disease) affects over 90% of adult dogs.

Just like our own teeth, our pet's teeth can develop a build-up of plaque which, if left untreated, can become tartar - a hard substance made up of bad bacteria. This builds up like concrete on the teeth and can eventually cause gum infection (gingivitis). You will know your pet has gingivitis if they have red, swollen gums that can sometimes bleed and may result in a bad odour from their mouth.

Ask your vet about the health of your dog’s teeth and gums each time you visit the veterinary surgery. Gingivitis can lead to bacteria travelling through your dog’s bloodstream and, in extreme cases, has been known to cause heart and kidney problems. If you notice a build of tartar on your pet’s teeth or would like advice on looking after their mouth, always contact your vet.

The following are signs there may be a problem with your pet’s mouth:

  •     Smelly breath
  •     Red or swollen gums
  •     Bleeding gums
  •     Yellow crusty build up on the teeth
  •     Excessive drooling
  •     Dropping food from the side of the mouth
  •     Reduced appetite and weight loss
  •     Reluctance to eat or chew

As always, prevention is better than cure and dental health in dogs is no exception. And the risk is not the same for all dogs. Another VetCompass study supported by Agria Pet Insurance examined what types of dogs are most at risk of dental disease.

The breeds with the highest risk included Toy Poodle, King Charles, Greyhound, Cava­lier King Charles Spaniel, Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire Terrier, Cockapoo or Chihuahua, Lurcher, Border Terrier, miniature Dachshund, Whippet, Bichon Frise, and Cocker Spaniel. The risk was higher generally in smaller sizes of dogs and rose dramatically as dogs got older. So do pay extra care to your dog’s dental health if your dog is a high-risk breed or is no longer a puppy.

Brushing your dog’s teeth

To maintain good oral hygiene in your dog, start brushing early in their life and keep it simple. Begin by gently stroking your dog's cheek to get them used to mouth handling. Gradually introduce toothpaste by letting them lick it. Progress slowly up to full brushing of the teeth, respecting your dog's comfort throughout the process.

Only use an animal-friendly toothpaste as human toothpaste is toxic to dogs

Once your dog is comfortable with toothpaste on their gums, transition to a soft toothbrush, starting at the front and moving to the back using gentle circular motions. Ensure you’re using animal-friendly toothpaste.

Getting your dog to clean their own teeth

Providing your pet with natural chews and toys that have been designed to improve dental health will also help control plaque and tartar build-up. However, try to avoid really hard chews, bones and stones that can splinter, wear down or break teeth.

Change your dog’s food

Changing your pet’s diet to a dry biscuit kibble will also help in the fight against dental disease. Tinned meat and pouches of pet food can contribute to plaque build-up so adding in dry food or changing over to a complete dry diet can help a great deal.

Cover for dental treatment

Dogs insured with an Agria Pet Insurance policy have unlimited cover for dental treatment, providing the cost falls within the annual vets’ fees limit of up to £12,500. Treatment required for dental disease and accidents is covered, providing a dental check has been carried out within the previous 15 months, and any treatment recommended by the vet has been carried out within 3 months of the advice.

As an Agria Pet Insurance customer, you can speak to a vet completely free whenever you have a question or concern about your pet’s health. Simply download the Agria Vet Guide app for free 24/7 video calls; giving you expert advice to help keep your pet happy and healthy.

Robin Hargreaves, Senior Veterinary Adviser at Agria Pet Insurance, explains, “Our dogs should be with us into their teens, but the animals they evolved from didn’t live anything like to this age – and so their teeth are not designed for longevity.

"Left uncared for, the likelihood is that they will deteriorate, giving your dog gum disease and mouth and gum pain. But by simply encouraging your dog to chew on something appropriate to use their teeth, that won't break or splinter, can really help to keep the surfaces clean.

“Owners can also get into the habit of cleaning their dog’s teeth - which is not that daunting once you both get the hang of it. Start as early as you can so it’s not scary and they get used to it from a young age and reward them afterwards. Cleaning dogs’ teeth is effective and helps to keep the tartar down – which otherwise traps food against the gums, erodes them back and causes infections.”

Alessandra Pacelli

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