Maybe you’ve noticed your dog’s breath has been less than pleasant lately. Or maybe your cat only wants to eat his soft food, and not his kibble. Perhaps your pet is shying away when you touch his head or mouth. These could be signs of dental disease in your pet, but many pets do not even give us these meager clues that their oral health is in need of attention. The fact is, 80% of dogs, and 70% of cats over the age of 3 have dental disease and most of them are very good at hiding it.
Plaque, that white film that covers your teeth when you first wake up in the morning, also forms on the teeth of our pets. When left untreated, plaque hardens to tarter which adheres to the tooth. While some tarter may be evident if you look closely at your pet’s mouth, it is only the tip of the iceberg; plaque and tarter build up under the gums as well as on the crown (visible portion) of the tooth. Because of bacteria present in plaque and tarter, the tissue that holds the tooth in place becomes weakened resulting in periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease can be painful for pets and can result in the loss of their teeth. The bacteria that cause periodontal disease can also affect your pet’s overall health by traveling to other areas of the body, and by over stimulating the body’s immune system. The good news is that periodontal disease is preventable.
The most important step in protecting your pet from periodontal disease begins at home, with daily brushing. Most pets can learn to not only tolerate, but enjoy having their teeth brushed. For those pets who don’t accept brushing, dental chews and water additives can help keep plaque and tarter to a minimum. Even with the best of home care, professional cleanings are still an essential part of your pet’s health care needs. Just as most people see their dentist for regular cleanings, your pet should too. Although your pet will need to be anesthetized to ensure the best care possible, regular dental exams and cleanings are very safe.
When discussing dental care with your veterinarian, be sure that they have appropriate equipment including anesthetic monitoring machines, dental x-ray capability, ultrasonic scaling, and high speed dental drills that will ensure your pet stays safe and gets the best care possible. If your pet needs advanced dental care such as a root canal, or more extensive work then your vet is equipped for, you may be referred to a veterinary dentist. If your pet has not had his teeth checked by your veterinarian recently, consider setting up a dental consult so that the doctor can discuss your pets’ individual dental needs with you and come up with the best treatment plan for your furry friend.