Dogs, cats and some primates can suffer from tooth pain and can also be exposed to radiation when they are injured, new research suggests.
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found that the effects of high-intensity radiation on the teeth of primates such as dogs and cats were not comparable to the effects on human beings.
“We were surprised by the magnitude of these effects,” said Professor Daniela Henschel, who led the study from the Max Planck Institute for Cancer Research in Germany.
“The extent of tooth damage in dogs and the extent of injury in cats is similar to the damage we see in humans, but it is not comparable,” she said.
The authors said the results suggested that the radiation could affect the structure of the teeth, but did not provide an explanation for the results.
“It seems that the way that we perceive damage is different to the way it is perceived in humans,” Dr Henshel said.
“This makes it difficult to distinguish between the two types of damage.”
The results of the study also suggest that some of the radiation that dogs and other primates were exposed to may be causing damage to the surface of their teeth.
“Although it is quite common in dogs, we did not find a significant difference between the levels of the human equivalent and the levels we observed in dogs,” Professor Henssel said.
She said the findings indicated that it was more likely that the damage to teeth was caused by the direct radiation, which came from the sun or from a nearby nuclear power plant.
“Because dogs and humans have been exposed to similar levels of radiation, we would expect a similar amount of damage,” she added.
The team, which included Dr Hauschel and Dr Matthias Reichenberger from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, tested the effects, and found that dogs exposed to high-energy X-rays had more damage to their teeth than dogs that were not exposed to these radiation levels.
“When the amount of radiation is high, we expect that we will see the same amount of tooth loss,” Dr Reichenberg said.
“But when the amount is low, we don’t expect any significant difference.”
Dr Reichenbeck said the team was also surprised by how little difference dogs and their owners experienced from one exposure to another.
“In dogs, the radiation exposure is quite low,” he said.
“But in humans it is much more.”
The researchers also found that even when dogs were exposed at levels of less than 100 milli-sieverts per hour, they did not show any significant differences in their tooth loss.
Dr Henshelscher said it was possible that dogs could have different levels of exposure, or they could be exposed more slowly.
“If we can find a way to lower the dose of radiation and increase the rate of exposure and also reduce the amount that the dogs are exposed, then we can possibly decrease the amount [of damage] in dogs compared to humans,” she explained.
Dr Reiber and Dr Husschel are also working on ways to treat the damage caused by radiation, with the aim of reducing the amount exposed to the human body.