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  • Writer's pictureDr. Allie

Pet Dental Health Month Tips

Pet Dental Health




Keeping your pet’s teeth clean and healthy is an important part of


their overall wellness. Many pets, especially small dogs and cats,


suffer in silence from poor dental health. Think about it - we brush


our teeth multiple times daily, while very few dogs or cats' teeth are


brushed regularly (we will discuss tips on this later!). Can you


imagine how much tartar would build up if we didn’t brush our teeth


for a week or even a month? Many dogs and cats go without regular


dental hygiene for YEARS. Yuck!


As your pet’s teeth build up tartar, bacteria is also accumulating.


Infection can penetrate into the gums and into the bloodstream, and


can even be life threatening. Abscesses can form on the tooth root


that can go unnoticed. Severe decay and rotting teeth are extremely


common. If you have ever had a toothache, you know that these dental


ailments can be incredibly painful!! Many owners don’t realize how


much their dog is suffering in silence, until their diseased teeth are


removed and the infection is treated. The most frequent comment I hear


from owners after we perform a long-needed dental procedure is “Wow!


It’s like I have a new dog!.”


So how do we fix these dental issues? Your veterinarian can perform a


dental evaluation and cleaning under general anesthesia. Under


anesthesia, the veterinarian can adequately assess the health of all


the tissues of the mouth, as well as look for any cavities, gum


disease, or other abnormalities. Dental radiographs (x-rays) will also


be taken. The veterinarian will then decide if there are any teeth


that need to be removed (extractions). Once these teeth are removed,


the gums will be sutured, then the vet will clean the teeth with an


ultrasonic scaler to remove the tartar buildup and polish the teeth.


The pet will then be woken up from anesthesia with a clean, healthy


and happy mouth. Oftentimes, the pet may be sent home with pain


medication or antibiotics.



Frequently Asked Questions:


“How can my dog eat if you pull out so many teeth?”. Dogs and cats are


actually very good at eating without teeth. They are able to use the


hardened surface of their gums where the teeth were removed, but very


often most dogs don’t really chew their food very well anyways. Of


course, softening their food is sometimes helpful, but not always


necessary!



“Does my dog have to be put under general anesthesia? Isn’t this


risky?” - While there is always a small risk to anesthesia (just like


in humans), veterinarians perform these procedures daily and the risk


is very low. Your vet will perform pre-surgical bloodwork and perform


a full physical exam first to ensure that your pet is healthy enough


to be put under anesthesia. Anesthesia is required to perform a full


comprehensive dental exam, as well as to perform any extractions and


cleaning of tartar.



“Can my dog get a non-anesthetic dental cleaning?” - Non-anesthetic


dental cleanings are not recommended by veterinarians for a few


reasons. First, most non-anesthetic dentals are not performed by


veterinarians, which can be risky for the pet if the pet develops any


medical problems during the procedure such as difficulty breathing,


bleeding, or severe anxiety. Second, with an awake pet, it is


impossible to evaluate the structures of the teeth that are under the


gumline. So while the teeth may appear to be clean, the important


structures underneath the gums have not been evaluated for decay or


infection. Lastly, in the state of California, non-anesthetic dentals


performed by non-veterinarians are considered to be practicing


veterinary medicine without a license and are actually illegal.




So now that we covered the importance of anesthetic dental cleanings,


how can I keep my pet’s teeth healthy in between procedures? The


number one way to keep your dog or cat’s teeth shiny and clean is with


daily brushing. Of course, most pets will not tolerate this and may


need a lot of patience and training. First, allow your pet to get used


to you touching their teeth with just your finger. Place a small


amount of tasty pet toothpaste (do NOT use human toothpaste as it can


contain toxic sweeteners that can be deadly to dogs) on your finger


and allow the dog to lick it off. Next, try rubbing the toothpaste


onto their teeth. Do this every day until they are completely


comfortable. Slowly work up to using your finger to “brush” all of


their teeth, then you can move on to the toothbrush itself. This whole


process can take weeks to even months, but any brushing that you


accomplish is definitely better than nothing! Other suggestions to


help with tartar accumulation include dental treats and water


additives that help break down plaque.  Follow these tips to keep your


pet’s dental health in tip top shape!



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