How should I care for my pet’s teeth?

Brown

We’ve all had that moment when a beloved pet comes up to you, happily breathes in your face and your eyes start tearing from the fumes.

Dental disease is a serious but unappreciated problem in our furry friends.

A common misconception is that you will know if a pet has a bad tooth or is feeling pain from dental disease because he or she will stop eating. In reality, it is very uncommon for pets to stop eating from dental disease. Usually, a pet’s oral condition has to be very bad, developed into an abscess and probable bone loss, before they will stop eating.

Cats have even subtler signs of dental disease and are more likely to have cervical line lesions, which are cavities at the gum line. These cavities are very painful and even though they generally won’t stop a pet from eating, the disease affects a cat’s attitude and overall health.

Because the signs of dental problems usually aren’t obvious, it’s important to take your pet to a veterinarian for an annual check-up.

If a pet does need a dental cleaning, chances are good that it’s an older pet.

When considering getting dental work done on an older pet, do your homework by asking the following questions:

 Do the veterinarians at the practice have good monitoring equipment and have a comfort zone when dealing with dentistry and older pets and the anesthesia that is required for the procedure?

 Have the doctors had any additional dental training?

 Does the veterinary practice have dental radiology (x-rays), which is required to be able to do a good job and see abscessed roots under the gum line?

A dental cleaning can truly improve your older pet’s quality of life. I have heard many clients with older pets remark that their companion is like a puppy again after having bad teeth removed and his or her mouth cleaned up.

A dental cleaning can also improve a pet’s overall health. Bacteria that is causing problems in your pet’s mouth can spread and cause problems in organs such as the liver and kidneys.

Unfortunately, less intense cleanings don’t do an adequate job. Sedation is necessary so a professional can reach all surfaces of a pet’s teeth and get under the gum line to adequately clean the teeth. Radiographs should be taken to rule out any problems that may be hiding under the gum line.

You can also take steps at home to improve your pet’s dental health. Brushing is the gold standard and videos posted online can explain how to go about brushing your pet’s teeth. If brushing is not an option, try chews, such as C.E.T. brand products, and water additives.

Dental health is an important part of your pet’s overall health. If you have concerns about your pet’s dental health, contact your veterinarian.

Dr. Virginia G. Brown is a veterinarian at Goose Creek Veterinary Clinic.