February is dental month, so let's discuss why dental health is so important in our furry critters.
(Picture from: https://www.animalleague.org/blog/tips/pet-health-and-wellness/importance-of-dental-health/)
Quick Overview of Dental Disease
Periodontal disease is described as inflammation and infection of the gingiva that is associated with the teeth and is one of the most common diseases veterinarians see on a daily basis. The disease is most commonly seen in small breed and toy breed dogs and cats, though every breed is susceptible. Dental disease left untreated can progress to further problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease, toot root abscesses, and more. Dental disease in dogs and cats is not the same as humans. Humans commonly get tooth decay and cavities, which we see periodontal disease and fractured teeth in our four legged friends. However, healthy dentition in humans and pets alike lead to a longer and healthier overall life.
(Picture from: http://www.jamessnowvet.com/services/dentistry.html)
Stages of Periodontal Disease
(Picture from: https://www.bridgewatervet.com/dental-care/)
(Picture from: https://healthypetvetclinic.com/dental-health/faq-about-your-pet-s-dental-health.html)
A lot of animals will not show obvious clinical signs and go unnoticed by an owner. Signs you may note at home are halitosis (bad breath), teeth staining, bleeding on toys after chewing, trouble eating, and/or teeth chattering. The best thing to do is get your pet's teeth evaluated by your veterinarian. They will discuss with you if a comprehensive oral procedure is recommended and how to care for their teeth in the future.
The best preventative measure is daily tooth brushing. Just like humans, the plaque will turn into tarter within 24 hours, which is what is difficult to get off.
Only use animal friendly toothpaste. No human toothpaste
Use this as a treat for 1-2 weeks
After the initial 1-2 weeks, start placing your fingers in the animal's mouth with the toothpaste on your finger
Start placing the toothpaste on a finger brush, piece of gauze, or Q-tip and brush the teeth as you were to brush yours. Make sure to concentrate on the gum line
Perform this daily if possible
Give your pet a great treat afterwards for a high value reward! (ideas: peanut butter, small piece of turkey hot dog or cheese, small amount of cream cheese)
VOHC certified products for your pet to chew on
We recommend staying away from antler and nylabones, as we have seem many tooth fractures secondary to these chew options
(Picture from: https://toroparkvet.com/2020/02/pet-dental-health-month/)
Treatment (Comprehensive Oral Procedure)
The treatment for Periodontal Disease is a comprehensive oral procedure with examination. Anesthesia is needed for this procedure since most animals will not allow a cleaning without risk of biting, increased fear and stress. During the procedure, your pet's teeth are professionally scaled and polished. The veterinarian and nurse will be checking for pockets, masses and/or gum recession and mark it on the pet's personal records. This allows us to continue monitoring progress of disease in the future. Dental radiographs (x-rays) will them be taken. These allow the veterinarian to see under the gum line (where 80% of periodontal disease lies) to make sure they are not missing any abnormalities/disease processes while the pet is under anesthesia. The veterinarian uses the information gathered with this exam and diagnostic to determine if any extractions are needed, which will also take place during the procedure.
There are dental specialist in the veterinarian field that will perform root canals and place false teeth. If that is ever something you are interested your local veterinarian can refer you.
(Picture from: https://www.preventivevet.com/dogs/why-its-important-to-have-dental-cleanings-performed-under-anesthesia)