Pet Talk: February is national pet dental health month
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, a time to have your pet’s annual dental health check up. Many local veterinarians are offering discounts on pet dental services during the month.
So often I hear, “Doc, I had a cat my whole life and I never had to clean her teeth,” or “Doc, I just give my dog a bone once a week and I figured that would take care of those teeth.”
Believe it or not, your pet’s need annual dental exams and prophys, just like people. Because your pets cannot talk to you and tell you when there truly is an issue, having an annual dental check up can be very helpful in identifying pathology in your pet’s mouth long before you see signs.
Pets are prone to multiple dental issues. In dogs, we often will find broken teeth, abscessed teeth as well as oral cancers. In cats, we will find what is referred to as “resorbtive” lesions, a type of cavity found up next to the gum line which can be very painful to a cat. In addition, we also discover abscessing teeth and, again, oral cancers.
Signs to look for
In pets, outward signs of dental disease include:
Discharge from the mouth
Problems picking up and/or chewing food
Swelling on the side of the face
Talking or making noises when eating or opening the mouth
Not wanting the mouth touched, shying away when approached
Favoring chewing on one side of the mouth versus another
Chronic sneezing and/or nasal discharge
Steps at the vet
Once examined, your veterinarian can determine the need for the next step in your pet’s dental care.
The first and foremost step is a good dental cleaning. The pet is typically sedated to avoid dangerous particles of plaque and bacteria from getting into your pet’s lungs. During the cleaning process, the teeth are carefully ultrasonically cleaned and polished, then a “probe” is utilized to locate problem areas.
After the dental cleaning, your veterinarian should take dental radiographs. Just visually examining your pet’s mouth is the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to truly evaluating your pet’s dental health.
After the dental cleaning and radiographs are performed, several areas of dental pathology can be identified and often repaired.
Upon discharge, your veterinarian will educate you on preventative measures for dental health, including routine brushing and dental treats which help minimize tartar build up.
Regardless, by taking care of your pet’s dental health, you are assuring you are preventing serious systemic infections from occurring later, not to forget avoiding your pet being in pain from a dental issue that was not detected early.
In conclusion, being proactive with your pet’s dental care can assure a healthier, happier pet.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.