CHEW ON THIS: TIPS FOR “NATIONAL PET DENTAL HEALTH MONTH”To increase awareness of the more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent cats that show signs of poor dental health by the age of three, The American Veterinary Medical Association has named February “National Pet Dental Health Month.”
“Dental care for pets is most important for controlling bacteria that can enter the bloodstream and affect the pet’s organs, especially the heart, liver and kidneys,” said Dr. Beverly Drozd, Home Veterinary Service. “This, in addition to pain and discomfort of periodontal disease, halitosis and stinky kisses.”
Dogs do not get cavities – their dental disease begins as periodontal bacteria in the mouth that leads to buildup of soft tartar on the teeth. As the tartar builds up, the gum and eventually the bone recedes.
Cats are the same as dogs as well as being susceptible to root cavities (human cavities primarily begin at the top of the tooth and work downward), which lead to exposed nerves and worse.
“Cats can also get inflammation or Stomatitis that is related to specific viral conditions,” said Dr. Drozd.
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates two percent of pet owners brush their companion animal’s teeth.
“For regular maintenance of a pet’s teeth, I like baking soda on a damp dishcloth to wipe along the teeth and gum lines,” said Dr. Drozd. “There is no flavor and baking soda is not harmful if swallowed.”
Common signs companion animals have periodontal disease include: mouth odor, trouble chewing, dropping of food out of the mouth, “shy head” and green to brown build-up on teeth.
“Pets mask pain but pet owners must know that they experience oral pain equal to what we do,” said Dr. Danielle
Rawlins, Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital. “They do not always let you know when they feel poorly, however they always let you know when they are feeling better. I am very passionate about this.”
A veterinarian will inspect your companion animal’s mouth, teeth and gums during a dental health check-up, which is recommended to be performed during annual visits. If the veterinarian determines a dental procedure is necessary, the procedure will include a number of treatments.
“There is so much more to pet dental care than scaling,” said Dr. Rawlins. “The procedure should include root planing and curettage in addition to tooth polishing, irrigation, the application of a sealant and a no-fee follow-up visit.”
Extractions of teeth are not uncommon for pets over the age of four or if periodontal disease is extreme.
“Owners of the pet are often upset by extractions but the pain and loose teeth are not doing the pet any good,” said Dr. Drozd, who says she performs all dental work for her patients as opposed to a veterinary technician. “Doing the dental work before we reach the extraction stage is ideal.”
Prior to any pet dental procedure, experts suggest asking specific questions, including whether the doctor uses a Cavitron which is the same type of scaler used on humans, if the doctor suggests pre-surgical blood work to make sure the pet is healthy enough for the procedure and whether the doctor anticipates extractions so there are no billing surprises.
“Pet oral disease is one of the most common yet serious health problems diagnosed in veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Rawlins.
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