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Vail Pets: Start brushing teeth early

Stephen Sheldon
Vail Valley, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –Because it is Dental Health Month at Gypsum Animal Hospital I thought I would write a series of articles on your pets’ teeth, Vail Valley.

First, we will start with the basics of dental care and then move on to more specific topics like broken teeth, periodontal/gum diseases, oral tumors and feline cavities.

To start, let’s take a look under the hood shall we? Puppies have 28 teeth, which are sharp little buggers that erupt around three weeks of age. By four months of age, the adult teeth, 42 in all, start to come in Yes, the baby teeth fall out and no, you usually don’t find them.



Kittens have 26 baby teeth and end up with 30 adult teeth (bonus points for who knows the medical name for baby teeth). They erupt and fall out at about the same ages as dog’s teeth.

Let’s look at some fun facts from the American Veterinary Dental Society:

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



• Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets.

• 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show significant signs of oral diseases by age 3

• Periodontal disease is a common problem in dogs, particularly smaller breeds



• 28 percent of cats will develop a painful catvities during their lifetime

You should begin brushing your dog’s or cat’s teeth when they are young. Like all behavior, an early start usually means better success. The most important thing is using pet toothpaste. Our human toothpaste contains fluoride and detergents that can cause stomach problems in pets. A soft toothbrush made specifically for pets is also important. Finger brushes are popular and less likely to scare pets.

If you cannot brush your pets’ teeth, there are oral rinses, tartar control diets and enzymes that you can sprinkle on food. They work by penetrating the plaque before it hardens into tartar. Plaque is the sticky muck of bacteria and food that forms on teeth; once minerals in the saliva harden it, it is called tartar.

Left alone, tartar causes gum disease, which will damage the teeth and cause infections to spread to other parts of the body likr the heart, liver and kidneys. Therefore it is important to have your pets’ teeth scaled by a veterinarian every few years. Scaling needs to be done under anesthesia to be done properly and the teeth need to be polished to keep the enamel from being damaged by scaling.

In the coming weeks, look for part two on broken teeth, one of the most common dental problems in pets. OK, here’s the answer: Baby teeth are correctly referred to as deciduous teeth.

Dr. Stephen Sheldon is a veterinarian at Gypsum Animal Hospital who brushes his dogs Lincoln and Ralphs’ teeth ever day. He can be reached at 524-DOGS or the clinic website, http://www.gypsumah.com


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