February is Dental Health Month. If you haven’t set an appointment already, it is time to make one with your dentist to take care of your pet’s teeth. Here at HSMC we see LOTS of pets come in with need for veterinary care, and too often it is so far gone they wind up with only one or two teeth or worse, a heart condition. Next to spaying and neutering, dentals are the top medical treatment we need to have done.
Left untreated, plaque and tartar buildup generally will progress to painful periodontal disease. Even worse, the bacteria from that can spread to other organs and cause even more illnesses. A whopping 85% of dogs and cats four years old and older are affected by periodontal disease! DON’T add your best furry buddy to that list!
Make it a point this month to help your pet keep his or her teeth and gums healthy!
Be aware of Bad Breath! If a musky odor is emanating from Fido’s mouth know that this could be a warning sign that he has periodontal disease. If you have a cat, that smell can also be indicative of stomatitis, an all too common feline condition that causes painful inflammation of the gums and mouth tissues.
Be aware of these signs as well:
- Bleeding gums
- yellow or brown teeth
- pawing at the mouth
- loose or missing teeth
Brush Your Pet’s Teeth! Yes, it can be a challenge at first, especially if you adopted or inherited an adult dog. With enough love, patience and plenty of yummy rewards, you can make a tooth brushing battle into a bonding experience with your dog or cat. I’ll be honest. It very well may take several weeks to acclimate your pet to the toothbrush. Start by letting him smell the toothbrush and pet (not people) toothpaste, then gradually work your way to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of his mouth at least every other day. WARNING: Human toothpaste is not safe for pets, be sure to use a product approved for pets.
If you are afraid your pet will bite you, just ask your veterinarian for alternative tartar-control options.
Dental Toys, Treats and Food While not as effective as actually brushing your pet’s teeth, giving them treats, toys and food specifically designed to promote oral health will help to maintain healthy gums and teeth. You can check for the Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council to make sure that whatever alternative you choose meets the standards for effective plaque and tartar control. You’re a good pet parent, you’ll make the effort!
Schedule a Dental Exam! We humans aren’t the only ones who need professional dental care. Your pets need and deserve to have their teeth and gums checked by a veterinarian. During the exam you can expect the vet to first take your pet’s medical history, then ask if you’ve noticed any dental health warning signs such as the ones you read about above. Then there will be an examination of your pet, including checking the head and neck for any abnormalities. Finally, he’ll check out your pet’s teeth and gums for redness, inflammation, tenderness and bleeding. He’ll also be looking for missing teeth, cracked teeth, plaque, tartar, and potentially cancerous lumps and bumps. All this usually happens without sedation, unless your pet becomes aggressive or the teeth too painful. (Remember, that is OUR fault, not theirs!) For a complete dental evaluation, though, your pet will have to go under anesthesia.
Anesthesia vs. Rotten Teeth and Gums To properly examine your pet’s teeth and gums, effectively get rid of sticky plaque and tartar, and really clean your pet’s teeth, he’ll need to be anesthetized. Sure it sounds scary; it’s not as bad as it sounds. Just like with our own dental care, the procedure has never been safer or more comfortable. Before your vet even begins anesthesia, he well may recommend prescreening tests to help ensure that your pet is healthy enough for the procedure.
Honestly, the benefits of dental cleaning outweigh the possible risks of anesthesia. Your pet will awaken with fresh breath and healthy, shiny teeth. And remember this: maintaining healthy teeth and gums help protect the body’s other organs, like the heart and kidneys, from the damaging effects of dental disease.
If you have a puppy or kitten, it is never too early to get them, accustomed to the feel of teeth brushing. It should be part of every pet’s routine grooming and veterinary care.
CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN!