When you look at your pets' teeth they may show signs of tartar. This is a yellowy-brown, cement-like substance which accumulates on the teeth. It can damage the edges of the gums, which then lets the bacteria in to infect the teeth sockets and results in loose teeth. Tartar will always cause some inflammation of the gums and to some degree bad breath. Inflammation of the gums, where the gum meets the teeth is called gingivitis.
If your pet has gingivitis it will probably need dental treatment from your veterinary surgeon. Pets will have to have an anaesthetic so that the tartar can be removed using special scrapers or ultrasonic scaling machines. Bad teeth must be removed as they can lead to other problems such as root abscesses. If they are not removed then more serious problems could arise, for example, blood poisoning or even kidney disease.
Puppies and kittens get their first set of teeth (milk teeth) at around 14 days after birth. These milk teeth are shed and replaced by adult teeth at 4 to 6 months of age. Cats' and dogs' teeth are shaped for tearing and cutting rather than grinding food, therefore particles of food do not tend to become stuck in their teeth. However cats' and dogs' teeth frequently accumulate tartar particularly if they are only fed soft food.
There are various ways in which you can help to prevent the build up of tartar in your pet dog and cat. You can brush the teeth, do not use your own toothpaste as your pet will not be able to spit it out. Toothpaste designed for your pet is different from your toothpaste, it is made so that they can swallow it and it has specific enzymes in it which help to break down the formation of tartar in the mouth. Chews are also available which contain these specific enzymes, with one being given after meals.
Rodents are different from cats and dogs in that their teeth continue to grow throughout their lifetime. Hamsters, Guinea pigs & rabbits are some examples of pets which are like this.
Normally the teeth are worn down by rubbing against each other, the top against the bottom, and by wear and tear from the hard foods that they eat.
If the teeth are misaligned, through damage from rough handling, a fall or a fight they will not wear down as they are supposed to and will continue to grow. If this is allowed to happen the teeth can eventually grow into the animals face and cause a lot of unnecessary damage and discomfort. Misaligned teeth will require clipping at regular intervals, sometimes as much as once a week. Having their teeth clipped is not painful, unless the nerve is clipped, but they do not like it very much, so it is always best to get advice from your veterinary surgeon. Teeth can also be broken when chewing the wire of the hutch or cage the pet is housed in, do not worry too much as they will grow back in again, but if they are uneven they should be trimmed to an even length.
Pet shops usually have chews that you can give to your pet to keep their teeth down, it also prevents them from chewing their hutch and surroundings. Hard foods like carrots and celery sticks can also be made available as long as they do not cause any dietary upsets.