You brush your teeth every day and have regular dental checkups to keep yourself healthy. Do you do the same for your pets?
Dental health is just as important for pets as it is for people. You might think that your pets’ small mouths mean they have fewer teeth, but this isn’t the case. Adult humans have 32 teeth. Full-grown cats have 30 teeth, and full-grown dogs have 42. Cats and dogs can suffer from the same oral health problems as their human counterparts.
Some of the most common health issues seen by veterinarians in both cats and dogs are related to dental disease. Adult cats often suffer from inflamed gums, and it’s common to see periodontal disease and fractured teeth in dogs. In fact, four out of five dogs over the age of three have some kind of periodontal disease.
All of these conditions are serious if they’re left untreated and can cause trouble for your pet’s overall health. Your cat or dog could experience pain, tooth loss, bone loss in the jaw, and the inability to eat or chew comfortably. There’s even a risk that lingering bacterial infection in the mouth can cause damage to your pet’s organs, such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Routine Oral Health Care is Essential for Pets
So, what can you do to make sure your cat or dog has a healthy mouth? There are a few simple things you can do at home. In addition to feeding your pet a healthy diet, you can put an additive in your dog’s drinking water to help break down plaque and freshen his or her breath.
Make sure your dog has plenty of chew toys available. Regular chewing can help break down plaque in the mouth before it has a chance to build up. Just make sure that your dog’s chew toys aren’t so hard that they end up fracturing teeth. Tap the chew toy against your own knee or indent with your fingernail. If it hurts or you are unable to leave a mark, it’s too hard for your dog. Deer antlers and marrow bones should also be avoided, as they are very hard on teeth and can cause painful breakage.
Routine tooth brushing–ideally every day–is a must. Here are a few tips for brushing your pet’s teeth:
- Use a toothpaste made especially for cats or dogs. Toothpaste made for humans is harmful if swallowed by pets, and pet toothpaste comes in flavors your pet will enjoy, such as poultry, seafood, or beef. Let him or her try a small sample to get used to the taste before you begin brushing.
- Use a toothbrush specially designed for dogs or cats. You could also use a small child-sized toothbrush or a soft rubber brush that fits over your finger.
- Lift your pet’s lip and brush gently on the outside surface of the teeth. If you only do a small section of your pet’s mouth the first few times, that’s OK. You’re getting your pet used to the routine.
- Reward your pet with playtime or petting when the brushing is done. If you work to make brushing a gentle, positive experience, your pet will be more cooperative.
It’s also important to bring your pet to your family veterinarian for regular medical checkups at least once a year. As part of your pet’s exam, your vet will check for signs of dental problems, discuss any oral health issues with you, and may even offer cleanings and x-rays. Certain dog breeds or pets with periodontal disease may need cleanings and checkups more often than once a year. Discuss your pet’s individual needs with your vet.
As recommended by the AVDC (American Veterinary Dental College), your pet will need to be under anesthesia while his or her teeth are cleaned and x-rayed. This allows your vet to do the most thorough cleaning possible and reduces stress, anxiety, and the chance of injury for your pet.
If any serious problems are found, your vet will recommend that you bring your pet to a veterinary dental care specialist.
When Your Pet Requires Advanced Dental Treatment or Surgery
While your veterinarian typically handles many oral care concerns as part of routine dental services, more serious problems are often handled by a specialty veterinary dental care center such as the Department of Dentistry and Oral Surgery at East End Veterinary Center in Riverhead, NY. East End Veterinary Center’s services expand and complement those that are already provided by your regular veterinarian.
How do you know if you need more advanced dental care for your pet? Animals are experts at hiding pain and illness, so you may not even notice your pet has a serious dental problem until your veterinarian spots it during a routine exam or until it becomes advanced enough that your pet begins to show symptoms. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Dropping food, difficulty chewing, or loss of appetite
- Pawing at the mouth
- Red, inflamed, or bleeding gums
- Loose teeth
- Swelling of the face or jaw
These can point to a variety of conditions. Pets can suffer from many different types of oral diseases and injuries, including the following:
- Abnormal tooth alignment, also referred to as malocclusion
- Tooth or soft tissue trauma
- Oral ulcers or excessive redness of the gums
- Missing teeth
- Crowded or extra teeth
- Growths or swellings
- Fractured, chipped, or loose teeth
- Open pulp chambers
- Advanced gum recession
- Deep periodontal pockets
Dentistry and Oral Surgery Services Available to Your Pet
Oral surgery services, like those offered at the Department of Dentistry and Oral Surgery at East End Veterinary Center, include the following:
- Endodontics/root canals
- High-risk extractions
- Dental fracture repair
- Oral oncology
- Oral surgery
- Pedodontic and periodontal care
- Stomatitis surgery in cats
In the end, pets that have undergone specialty veterinary dental care or surgery exhibit positive behavior changes almost immediately. Fixing a painful dental problem often means your pet will return to his or her pain-free, frisky self.
If your pet is showing signs of a serious dental problem and your vet recommends advanced care, contact East End Veterinary Center, your specialty and 24/7 emergency vet center for companion animals in Riverhead, NY. Appointments are not required to see a veterinarian in an emergency; however, you are encouraged to call ahead at (613) 369-4513 so our veterinarians can prepare for your arrival. Consultations with our dental and oral surgeon are scheduled on an appointment-only basis.