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Monday, July 02, 2012 1:52 PM
We may claim to be a nation of dog lovers but 80% of Kiwi dogs aged over three have gum disease according to research*.
Left untreated, gum disease in dogs may lead to heart, kidney and liver failure and death, but the study also revealed that 90% of Kiwi owners don't believe their dog has gum disease**.
The research has prompted more than 200 veterinarians from around the country to unite in a month long campaign to address poor canine dental health.
Vets from Invercargill to Whangarei are participating in the Dentastix Doggie Dental Month, offering free canine dental check-ups for dogs throughout the country during this month. It is hoped the programme, launched in conjunction with dog chew brand Pedigree Dentastix, will go some way to address the worrying statistics.
A survey*** by Dentastix showed more than half (61%) of dog owners admitted to not brushing their dog's teeth at all with 55% saying they did not realise they needed to and 15% asserting that their dog didn't like it.
The research also found that at least 7% of dog owners said they didn't know how to brush their dogs teeth, a worrying result according to top Auckland Veterinarian Dr Alex Melrose.
Dr Melrose says untreated gum disease can lead to toothloss, absceses and bone infection.
The bacteria and infections that result from bad dental hygiene can spread to the dog's bloodstream leading to heart, kidney or liver disease which can result in serious health complications, he says.
Dr Melrose says that many dog owners put brushing their pet's teeth and dental healthcare in the too hard or too costly basket, but the free dental checks are a great way for dog owners to learn how to care for their pet's oral health.
There are three critical components of pet oral health care, says Dr Melrose: regular oral examination, everyday tooth brushing and regular use of good quality dental chews.
"What research has found is that nearly two-thirds of dog owners don't take care of their dog's teeth, not because they don't care about their pets, but because they're not aware of the importance of dental health to overall optimum health, longevity and quality of life."
"Owners should be checking their pet's teeth regularly. They need to prise open their mouth gently, pull back their gums and check along each tooth and its adjacent gum line. Things to watch out for include bad breath, brownish or discoloured teeth, swollen, red or receding gums, wiggly or cracked teeth and any unusual growths," he says.
Dr Melrose says dental problems that go untreated for prolonged periods often result in extraction, usually of many teeth, as the entire mouth area is affected. Vets also frequently find that diseased teeth are fragile and difficult to extract, adding even more to the cost if surgery is needed.
Pedigree Dentastix brand manager Aurelia Moly from MARS, says the company wanted to bring the issue of canine oral health into the spotlight following the survey results.
"We hope the campaign helps to highlight the importance of a dental care routine for dogs and better educates owners on how to care for their pets," she says.
"Healthy teeth and regular dental check-ups and maintenance can help improve not just a dog's quality of life, but even extend it for at least another 2 - 5 years," says Moly.
Tips for dog dental healthcare
*Hamp, S.E. Olsson, S.E., Farso-Madsen, K., Viklands, P. and Fornell, J. (1984) A macroscopic and radiological investigation of dental diseases in the dog. Veterinary Radiology 25:86-92.
**Preliminary data - 1995 National Companion Animal Study, Centre for Companion Animal Health, University of Minnesota & Mark Morris Institute, Topeka, KS
*** The Pedigree Dentastix Survey
The omnibus survey was conducted by Perceptive Research in October 2010. The survey was an online survey of n=1,008 New Zealanders, representative of the population and has a margin of error ±3.02%.
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