How do I know if my pet needs Dental help?

Phew! Love to kiss you dog, but your breath takes mine away! Halitosis is not normal in your dog or cat.  It is a sure sign that she/he has either well established gingivitis or deeper periodontal disease. Absolutely, the most overlooked chronic infection in our pets is dental disease. This brewing infection is not only capable of causing both acute and chronic pain, but has far reaching effects on your pets major organ function and longevity. As the mouth goes, so goes the body.

Breath not so bad…

Flip a lip, take a look. If you see redness in his/her gums, tartar on his/or her teeth and smell that foul smell, she/he needs your help. Have him/her evaluated by your veterinarian and schedule a dental. The safest and most effective dental will include a pre-dental exam with appropriate lab work, IV fluid and body warming support, vitals monitoring, dental Xrays, and complete cleaning and polishing of his/her teeth. The risks of anesthesia are greatly reduced with proper care and the benefits far outweigh the risks for the extreme majority of our pets. As veterinarians, our goal in working with you is to provide the most comfortable and longest life possible for your pet.

Knowing that our pet buddies age much faster than we do, would you let years go by between visits to the dentist or effective home hygiene? Probably not! It is a fact that your pet’s dental health is just as important to his or her overall health as your dental health is to your general health. To help veterinarians and their teams provide excellent dental care for dogs and cats and educate pet owners about the importance of proper dental care throughout their pets’ lives, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has developed the AAHA Dental Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. Major highlights of these guidelines are covered in this article.

Why Dental Care?

Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. In fact, a recent AAHA study showed that:

  • Approximately two-thirds of pet owners do not provide the dental care that is recommended as essential by veterinarians.
  • That 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. Dental disease does not affect just the mouth. It can lead to more serious health problems including heart, lung and kidney disease, which makes it all the more important that you provide your pet’s with proper dental care right from the start.
  • This disease is the most common disease of all dogs and cats.

Periodontal Disease

Fido’s dog breath and Tabby’s tuna breath aren’t something to be ignored – they usually indicate an oral problem, and the sooner you have it treated by your veterinarian (and learn to care for it yourself), the sooner you and your pet can smile proudly. Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth that takes hold in progressive stages. It starts out as a bacterial film called plaque. The bacteria attach to the teeth. When the bacteria die they can be calcified by calcium in saliva. This forms a hard, rough substance called tartar or calculus which allows more plaque to accumulate. Initially, plaque is soft and brushing or chewing hard food and toys can dislodge it. If left to spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums, causing them to become red and swollen and to bleed easily. As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, professional cleaning will be needed to help manage it. If the plaque and tartar buildup continues unchecked, infection can form around the root of the tooth. In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues surrounding the tooth are destroyed, the bony socket holding the tooth in erodes and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your four-legged friend, but these problems can be averted before they even start.

Dental Care at St. Francis Pet Care Center

There are two critical components of your pet’s veterinary dental care: oral examinations and dental cleanings. Veterinary dental care begins at the puppy and kitten life stage. AAHA recommends that veterinarians evaluate puppies and kittens for problems related to the deciduous (baby) teeth, missing or extra teeth, swellings and oral development. As your pet ages, we will look for developmental anomalies, the accumulation of plaque and tartar, periodontal disease and oral tumors. Veterinarians can perform a basic oral examination on patients that are awake. However, a short-lasting anesthetic is required in order to provide a complete and thorough examination, full-mouth dental Xrays, as well as dental cleanings. The AAHA Dental Care Guidelines recommend regular oral examinations and dental cleanings, under general anesthesia, for all adult dogs and cats. AAHA recommends these procedures at least annually starting at one year of age for cats and small-breed dogs, and at two years of age for large-breed dogs. The guidelines further recommend the following:

 Pre-anesthetic exam — Whenever anesthesia is needed, special considerations are taken to help ensure the safety of your pet. We will thoroughly examine your pet to make sure she’s healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Depending on your pet’s age and general physical condition, we may also run blood, urine, electrocardiograph, and x-ray tests to check for any dangerous heart, kidney, or other conditions. Though there is some risk associated with any medical procedure, modern anesthesia is usually safe, even for older pets.

Anesthesia monitoring — During anesthesia, the monitoring and recording of your pet’s vital signs (such as body temperature, heart rate, and respiration, as well as other important factors) is important. This helps ensure the safety of your pet while undergoing anesthesia.

Dental radiographs — Radiographs (x-rays) of the teeth are needed to completely evaluate your pet’s oral health. X-rays aid us greatly in detecting abnormalities that cannot be detected under examination alone. In some cases, x-rays can confirm the need for extraction of teeth that are loose or badly infected.

Scaling & Polishing — We use similar instruments as human dentists to remove plaque and calculus from your pet’s teeth. To smooth out any scratches in the tooth enamel, polishing with a special paste and an enamel sealant so that the build-up of plaque is greatly reduced.  This can help strengthen and desensitize teeth as well as decrease future dental pain and inflammation.

Home Care – We are here to help you in any way we can to maintain your pet’s healthy mouth by coaching you you with the right combination of products for you and your pet friend. For more information on getting started read our teeth brushing article or check out our videos on How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth or How to Brush your Cat’s Teeth.

Remember… pets can live longer, healthier lives if oral health care is managed and maintained throughout their lives. Talk to us about developing a dental care plan for your pet friend.

  • Pre-anesthetic lab work on all dental patients
  • Full-mouth digital X-rays on all patients
  • IV fluid and body heat support for all dental patients at no charge
  • Aggressive pre/intra/post-op pain management