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Vail pets: Pets’ teeth need care, too

Nadine Lober
Vail, CO Colorado

Your pets’ teeth are a necessary topic to discuss, Vail Valley. Pet owners who are feeling guilty about this article should not feel bad. I forget to brush my dog’s teeth as well. But, I cannot stress enough how important oral hygiene is in humans and pets.

If you do not brush your dog’s teeth, then your pet may need yearly dentals. If not, the tooth roots can get abscessed and the teeth will need to be pulled. As pet owners, the most obvious problem we first notice is the horrible breath (halitosis) as he pants in our face or licks our face (if you let your pet indulge). I’m talking about the breath caused by the severe tartar from gum disease, not from eating God knows what!

Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease occurring in both cats and dogs. It is inflammation and infection of the tissues (gums) surrounding the teeth. It is associated with movement of the gum margins away from the tooth and it regresses.



When you see the tartar (accumulation of plaque and calculi) on the teeth, there is also bacteria there replicating rapidly. If the plaque is not removed with regular brushing, it will become mineralized and turn into calculus or tartar.

The amount of tartar accumulated does not always correlate with the degree of periodontal disease. The inflammation of the gums, or gingiva, as a result of the disease process will cause an excessively red color on the gum line or full thickness of the gums. The gums will also bleed easily on probing.



You may have heard from human medicine how dangerous it is to have severe periodontal disease and not treat it. Research has proved that organs such as the lungs, kidneys, heart and liver are susceptible to infection from bacteria circulating in the blood that have come from the oral cavity (mouth).

Most of the time, the tartar accumulates on the upper back teeth, the fourth premolar and the molars. So it is sometimes hard to notice unless you pull back the lips. This is the reason why veterinarians look in the back of the mouth – it is easy to miss those back teeth where much disease may be hiding. Some gums are severely receding, the tooth root may be abscessed and it may be difficult to salvage that tooth. In this case, the tooth may have to be pulled to rid the mouth of disease.

Feeding your pet a diet of only hard food will not in itself prevent periodontal disease. It may delay the onset of such disease but regular brushing and the occasional dental at your veterinarian is still warranted.



To perform a proper dental on your pet in the hospital, he has to be anesthetized. First of all, your pet will not allow such a procedure while he is awake and he will not keep his mouth open for us. Second, we need to place an endotracheal tube down his trachea to allow for breathing and to prevent any discarded water to leak into your pet’s lungs.

The dental involves scaling the teeth (with an ultrasonic scaler) followed by polishing the cleaned teeth. If the gums are bleeding a lot and there was significant tartar and gum inflammation, we will send your pet home with antibiotics and a toothbrush kit.

Dental disease is not to be taken lightly, so try to brush your pet’s teeth. Cat owners have a harder time trying to brush their cat’s teeth. Remember what your breath would be like and what your teeth would look like if you never brushed them.

Veterinarian Dr. Nadine Lober can be reached at 949-7972


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