Pet Dentistry is more important than you think!
Cats and dogs have teeth- lots of them, and while this may not come as a surprise to anyone the fact that they require regular dental care may. Studies show that up to 80% of dogs and up to 70% of cats over 3 years of age suffer from dental disease, often unknowingly to their owners. Just as in humans, dental disease can be both incredibly painful and have a negative impact on health in other areas of the body such as the liver, kidneys, and heart. Through its direct connection to the bloodstream. In this article, We'll explore the signs of dental disease and the importance of treating it to keep your pets healthy and pain-free.
Prevention leads the way!
As with many medical conditions, prevention of dental disease is far easier than treatment for the average dog or cat simple preventative measures at home can make a significant difference in the severity and onset time of age-related conditions such as gingivitis and calculus buildup. Knowledge of breed-related conditions (For example, tooth crowding in flat-faced breeds), and early monitoring can also help prevent suffering. Things that can be done at home include frequent brushing (Just like humans), dental chews, and certain water additives. One thing to note however is that all pets, regardless of age or breed deserve routine dental checkups during their annual physical and that most pets will require a full dental procedure at least once during their lifetime. Some signs that there might be a problem with your pet's oral cavity are excessive drooling, bad breath, decrease appetite, reluctance to play with toys, and weight loss. However, cats and dogs will often hide signs of pain or weakness so a pet continuing to eat is not a sure sign of a healthy mouth. After all, they have no reason to believe not eating will result in a dental tune-up and they instinctively know they must eat to survive!
Why didn't we do this for our family pets growing up?
A common question faced by pet owners is wondering why vets are saying their animals require dental care now when family pets they grew up with seemed to do just fine without. The answer is quite simple. Just as in human medicine, veterinary medicine is a constantly evolving field. Over the past few decades, we are learning more and more that much of dental disease can not be seen by simply looking in the mouth. What lies below the gum line is often the most significant. The other reason to take into account is that as veterinary medicine evolves, pets are living longer than they ever used to and this increases the frequency of age-related conditions.
What's included in a dental exam/procedure?
A proper dental procedure requires full anesthesia. This is because, as indicated earlier the vast majority of dental diseases will be below the gumline so although an oral inspection while your dog is awake is possible, any type of procedure including cleanings must be done while under general anesthetic. Keep in mind that dental disease is very painful so expecting an animal to sit through any veterinary cleaning while awake (sometimes called "scrapings") is both inhumane and ineffective. Much of the issues will go unseen and procedures will be cut short when the animal's tolerance is used up and the likelihood of a bite increases drastically. Reoccurrence of issues is also very likely to happen leading to increased costs, time, the likelihood of complications, and pain for your pet.
When your pet arrives for a dental, a thorough physical exam will be completed prior to the surgery to ensure that the other body systems particularly the heart are in good condition prior to anesthesia. Once your pet is anesthetized both a veterinarian and a veterinary technician will be working on your pet's mouth. Veterinary technicians are specially trained to be able to clean the teeth and remove tartar buildup that, unlike plaque, cant be reduced with brushing or special feeds. They will also test the pocket depth of the gum around each tooth and let the veterinarian know of any concerns they might have. The veterinarian will then take a look and using special equipment, will extract any teeth that are either damaged or eroding and ensure there are no abscesses or other issues in the gumline. In severe cases, full mouth extractions may be required, however, pets can actually get along very well without any teeth when given the right care and will be much more comfortable and happy than with painful teeth and gums.
Take Home Message
Dental care for pets is just as important as it is for humans, Although the cost of veterinary dental care can be seen as high, proper dental procedures under full anesthetic will both save time and money in the long run and most importantly reduce suffering for your pet. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian, as they will be more than happy to talk to you!
Written by Dr. Emily Zakrajsek