Oct 27 2017

Why taking care of your pet’s teeth and gums is sooooo important!

I tell my clients that one of the two things I see most often that compromises the quality of life of older pets is periodontal disease.  (The other is obesity, but that is a discussion for another time).  Periodontal disease is very common but easily overlooked as negatively impacting our pet’s lives.  If I told you I could extend your pet’s life by up to 2 years, would you be interested?  That is the average number of years a pet’s quality life can be extended just by preventing periodontal disease!

Dogs and cats have bacteria in their mouths just like humans.  And just like in humans oral bacteria create inflammation that starts as gingivitis and progresses to periodontal disease if not managed.  Brushing your pet’s teeth has the same benefit for your pet as it does for you but you are now also examining your dog’s or cat’s mouth regularly.  This lets you pick up on changes quickly.

The most common sign of dental disease in dogs and cats is odor.  And I don’t mean Fancy Feast fish breath.  Get your nose REALLY close to your pet’s mouth.  If it smells like rotten garbage then periodontal disease is present.  I have noticed foul breath in many pets who did not have significant tartar or redness of the gums.  Periodontal disease starts beneath the gums and causes soft tissue and bone loss.  It allows bacteria into the blood stream where it can cause infection in major organs such as the heart, liver and kidneys.  Having excess bacteria in the blood is a constant drain on their system, causing pets to ‘slow down’ sooner than they should.

We all brush our teeth regularly but still go to our dentist’s office for a professional examination and cleaning.  Your pet also needs at least a yearly examination of her mouth looking for tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease, broken teeth or even tumors.  A thorough dental evaluation and cleaning requires anesthesia so that we can completely examine your pet’s mouth, probe around each and every tooth to evaluate the gums and use an ultrasonic scaler to remove plaque and tartar.

Many pet owners are concerned about the risk and cost of anesthesia.  Although the risk of anesthesia can never be zero, we make sure that your pet has had a thorough physical exam and blood work to look for underlying problems.  Modern anesthetic agents have never been safer.  We use ‘balanced anesthesia’ that reduces the pet’s stress as well as the overall amount of anesthetic required.  The cost of preventing periodontal disease is always less than the cost of extracting diseased teeth.  And what is the cost of your pet developing heart or kidney problems secondary to oral infection?

Most pets will not show obvious signs of dental problems until they are severe.  Both of my dogs had fractured canine teeth but were still eating, tugging on their rope toy and chewing on their Kongs!  I only discovered the fractures when I did a routine oral examination and tooth brushing.  The fractures had to be painful but they did not This is not at all uncommon.

Call us to discuss your pet’s dental health.  We can instruct you on how to introduce tooth brushing and schedule an oral exam for your pet so that you can take the best care of your best friend.

Pet Talk column: Got doggie breath? Dental care for dogs is more than a bone

capitalandah | Pet Health

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