Just like us, pets need routine dental care if their teeth are to stay healthy and attractive. Unfortunately, many owners fail to realize just how important their pet’s oral health is and a large number of animals suffer from dental problems unnecessarily. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, dental disease is the most prevalent health issue affecting dogs and cats and is estimated to affect 80% of canines and 70% of felines over the age of three. And unsurprisingly, there can be severe consequences for your pet if they are living with this condition.
Regular pet dental health evaluations and proper preventative care is the best way to protect the wellbeing of your furbaby.
Your pet needs their teeth quite as much as you need your own. In the absence of hands, their teeth act as tools to help them pick up, carry, and play with objects, as well as enabling them to capture and eat. Failure to be able to do such things can severely impact the quality of life of your pet. Unfortunately, there are many different dental problems that can affect our animals, including, of course, dental disease.
Dental disease in animals is exactly the same as it is in humans. It is caused by the same combination of food, saliva, and bacteria turning to sticky, transparent plaque, which then remains on your pet’s teeth until it is brushed away. Yet many owners don’t even bother to clean their pet’s teeth for them. This means that the plaque has time to mineralize and harden, becoming tartar which can only be removed using professional tools at a dental appointment with your vet. When your pet develops tartar, it can spread below the gum line, which results in infection of the soft tissue and destruction of the tooth’s supporting structures. Without the necessary treatment, severe dental pain, abscesses, tooth loss, and bone deterioration can occur.
Animals who have the severe dental disease are also more likely to develop other health problems. This is because bacteria from a tooth infection can also enter the blood and travel around to distant organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and heart. Here the bacteria can cause irreversible damage, resulting in severe and even life-threatening health conditions.
As a pet parent, it is very difficult to tell if your furbaby is experiencing dental problems. This is where your pet dentist comes in. They have the training and experience to be able to thoroughly examine your pet’s teeth to detect any developing problems. By doing this regularly, it is possible to spot dental issues early, before they can cause unpleasant symptoms and irreversible damage to your pet’s dental or general health.
It is important to be aware that nearly all pet dental appointments take place under general anesthetic, meaning that your furbaby will be fast asleep and will not be aware or have any memory of the appointment. This is important for several reasons. Firstly, it makes the process much less stressful for your pet, who won’t understand why a stranger is touching at their teeth – something which could make them feel threatened and scared. Secondly, it makes the appointment much safer for both your dentist and your pet. Your dentist won’t be at risk of being scratched or bitten, and they can manipulate your pet’s mouth as necessary in order to access every part of their teeth. This enables them to do a much better job of assessing them, and also to carry out a professional dental clean which is something that nearly always follows a pet dental health evaluation.
Professional dental cleanings are a very effective form of preventative care since they involve removing all traces of plaque and tartar before they damage your pet’s teeth and oral health. After the teeth are cleaned, they are polished to smooth the rough surface created by cleaning, which ensures that it is much harder for bacteria and plaque to adhere to the teeth. In some instances, a professional dental cleaning may be followed by x-rays if your veterinary dentist needs to establish if there are any issues below the gumline.
You will also soon discover that there are things that you can do at home to support the dental health of your pet. The most obvious is regularly brushing their teeth using veterinary-approved toothpaste (human varieties are highly toxic to animals) and a toothbrush. In addition to this, you should feed a balanced diet, provide dental treats, and plenty of chew toys which will help to remove plaque and keep their teeth in great condition.
If you would like more information about pet dental health evaluations, or to schedule an appointment, please contact our veterinary team in Dallas T,X.