Proper physical health for our pets consists of addressing many specific areas, such as digestion, heart health and blood flow, respiratory health and oral health, among others. Unfortunately, dental care for pets is often viewed as less important than other forms of pet healthcare, and it can then take a back seat or even be forgotten altogether. For your pet’s sake, it’s important that you don’t let this happen.
You may know from your own dental visits that your oral health is closely tied to your overall health and vice versa. The same holds true for our pets. Therefore just as you maintain good oral hygiene habits every day but still visit the dentist every six months for a thorough examination and professional cleaning, so too do your pets need to visit their dentist on a regular basis.
Lack of Dental Care and Its Problems
Pets who do not receive proper dental care can accumulate plaque and tartar buildup over time. This can even be true of pets whose owners try hard to adhere to strict dental hygiene habits every day, partly because pets don’t always cooperate with our efforts and partly because we lack the tools and know-how to thoroughly clean their teeth.
Since plaque and hardened tartar are full of harmful oral bacteria, pets who suffer from plaque and tartar buildup can develop cavities, gingival recession, loose teeth, root exposure and gum disease. If the condition is bad enough, the pet may have toxins and bacteria invade their bloodstream. In the case that these bacteria make their way into the lining of the heart or heart valves, a serious condition known as bacterial endocarditis can result. Joint problems and kidney damage can also result from toxins and bacteria in the bloodstream. This means that pets have just as many critical reasons to maintain good oral health as we do.
Taking Care of a Pet’s Teeth
One of the many things that your veterinarian will do during your pet’s routine physical examinations is check their teeth and oral cavity for signs of plaque, tartar, inflamed gums and other issues. If they notice any of these signs of poor oral health, they will recommend immediate treatment–usually a deep and thorough cleaning.
When you go to the dentist you may not love having someone poke around in and clean your teeth, but you understand what is being done and why, and so you cooperate. Pets don’t understand the dental cleaning process and can become fearful or even aggressive. Therefore, for their own health and safety, as well as the safety of the veterinarian performing the cleaning, the pet must be anesthetized.
Dental cleaning patients are asked to fast from food and water for the night and morning immediately preceding the procedure. They will receive routine blood tests to confirm that they are in good health and are a good candidate for anesthesia. They will be relaxed and then a general anesthesia administered. They will be carefully monitored, and the level of anesthesia delivered adjusted as necessary, throughout the entire process.
The veterinary dentist will use an ultrasonic instrument to scale the teeth, removing plaque and tartar buildup. Finally, the teeth will be lightly buffed and polished. Where decay has occurred, root canals or teeth capping may need to occur. In cases of severe damage or decay, the veterinarian may decide that removing the tooth is the best option. Pets don’t have the same concern about their cosmetic appearance that humans do, so after the gum heals there is usually little to no sign that a tooth was removed.
Once the dental cleaning is complete, the pet is gently woken up. Antibiotics are administered, as necessary, and a prescription for further antibiotic administration at home will be given if needed. Your veterinarian will ask that you keep an eye on them for a couple of days after the cleaning to make sure they have recovered well.
Regular veterinary examinations can reveal whether your pet is having dental issues that need to be addressed and resolved. However, if you notice that your pet is suffering from bad breath, dropping their food while eating, disinterested in eating or obviously has pain or injury in their mouth, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
For more information about dental care or to schedule your pet for an examination or cleaning, please contact us today.