Pet Talk column: Got doggie breath? Dental care for dogs is more than a bone
September is upon us, the time when many local veterinarians are offering discounts on pet dental services.
So often I hear “Doc, I had my cat for 16 years and 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 pets need annual dental exams and potential cleanings, just like people. Because your pets can’t talk to you and tell you when there is an issue, that annual exam can be very helpful in identifying pathology in your pet’s mouth long before you see signs.
Pets are prone to multiple dental issues. With dogs, we often will find broken teeth, abscessed teeth as well as oral cancers. With 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.
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.
Making noises when eating or opening the mouth.
Not wanting the mouth touched, “shying away” when approached.
Chewing on one side of the mouth vs another.
Chronic sneezing and/or nasal discharge.
Steps of Dental Care
Once examined, your veterinarian can determine the need for the next step in your pet’s dental care.
The first, and foremost step is routine 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 can utilize dental radiography. So many times we do not see significant pathology visually in the mouth, while the dental radiographs will show roots absorbing, infected roots or even fractured roots.
Repair of dental pathology can include enamel repair, root canals or even extraction depending upon what is found during the dental procedure.
Regardless, by taking care of your pet’s dental health, you are assuring that you are preventing serious systemic infections from occurring later, and 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.