Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pets need dental care too! February is Pet Dental Health Month

Does your dog or cat ever breathe in your face?  If so, you have probably noticed that their mouths can smell pretty foul if you don't keep up with their dental care.   The smell that comes from that cute little mouth is the smell of bacteria building up on their teeth and causing infection in their gums.  Can you imagine going months or years without taking a toothbrush and paste to your pearly whites??  That is what happens with our canine and feline friends in most households.  A small percentage of people brush their pet's teeth daily and many don't do it at all.  That lack of dental attention causes many pets to have thick ugly tartar buildup on their teeth and even worse severe gum infections leading to loss of valuable teeth at a very young age.  The dental chews and things that they advertise on TV for pet's dental health can help a little, however the real work has to be done by brushing and professional cleaning and polishing.  Most pets that do not have home dental brushing will need to have their teeth professionally cleaned by their veterinarian at about 1-3 years of age.  Imagine 3 years of food being left on your teeth to build up tartar and decay.  If those pets have their teeth brushed at home they may not need professional cleaning as often, but it is still important to their dental health just like it is for their human caregivers.  

It is advisable to have your pet's mouth evaluated by your veterinarian or veterinary technician at least annually and to have those teeth cleaned professionally at the first sign of tartar buildup or gum redness.  Your veterinarian will then be able to schedule your furry friend for a dental cleaning.  Pet's teeth are cleaned just like your teeth are cleaned by your dental hygienist.  They are scraped and polished with similar instruments that are used on your teeth.  Animals do have to be anesthetized in order to clean their teeth properly because most pets will not sit in a chair with their mouths open.  Most veterinarians will handle your pet's dental cleaning just as if they were a person going under anesthesia for a routine outpatient procedure.  Blood tests will be done prior to anesthesia to insure the health of the pet's kidneys, liver and immune system.  An IV catheter will be used to deliver medication and fluid and to insure safety during the procedure.  The teeth will then be cleaned, polished and sometimes x-rays will be taken to evaluate the tooth roots.  Therapeutic laser therapy can also be used to decrease gum inflammation and infection.  Once your pet returns home (most procedures take about 1 hours, so most pets return home in the early afternoon) you will be encouraged to follow up with proper brushing to keep up with the now healthy, clean mouth.  

If you have any questions or would like more information about dental care for your pet, call Warren Woods Veterinary Hospital at 586-751-3350.