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Taking Care of Your Pet’s Dental Health

It all begins with the mouth. The mouth is the first part of the digestive tract. When your pet’s mouth is healthy and clean, it contributes to their overall health. On the other hand, severe infections in the mouth can affect your pet’s internal organs as bacteria can enter the bloodstream. A mouth with advanced periodontal disease can also affect your dog or cat’s ability to eat and drink and will often be a source of pain. There are a lot of activities associated with your pet’s mouth; eating, drinking, chewing on toys, playing tug-of-war, etc., so it’s not just about keeping their teeth clean, it’s about keeping their bodies healthy so they can enjoy a better quality of life.

What you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy

There are two things you can do to take care of your pet’s dental health:

  1. Annual dental examinations by your veterinarian.
    During your pet’s annual wellness exam, ask your veterinarian to check your pet’s teeth. Your veterinarian will tell you if your pet requires professional dental cleaning, which may involve anesthesia.  Some pets may not need to have their teeth scaled and cleaned each year if daily brushing is done at home. It is common for dental issues to develop as pets age. Therefore, it is important that a veterinarian examine your pet’s mouth regularly. If your pet requires dental cleaning, they may be anesthetized so that radiographs of the mouth can be done as well as a thorough cleaning of the teeth, particularly above the gum line where dental disease can hide.
  1. Brush your pet’s teeth every day.
    Periodontal disease is quite common, but it is important that if your pet has the disease it does not progress. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) “periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats – by the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken.”Just as in humans, plaque builds up quickly in your pet’s mouth. In fact, just hours after they’ve eaten, plaque will begin to form. Therefore, daily or weekly brushing will help prevent the plaque from turning into tarter, which can lead to periodontal disease. Watch this video created by Dr. Courtney Campbell on how to properly brush your pet’s teeth.

You can also supplement teeth brushing with dental treats, toys, antiseptic rinses, and even water additives. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) has a list of approved dental products for dogs and cats.

Other pet dental conditions

There are certain dental conditions that can occur outside of periodontal disease. For example:

  • Oral tumors (both benign and malignant) have no known cause. Surgery is generally the preferred method of treatment when possible.
  • Poorly aligned teeth or bite can lead to periodontal disease, pain and affect your pet’s ability to eat properly. This condition requires orthodontic treatment.
  • Fractured teeth are commonly caused by chewing on bones, rawhide, and other hard items. Fractured teeth can be treated with a sealant, or if the pulp is exposed, with extraction or a root canal.
  • Fractured or broken jaws can be a result of chronic dental disease that has weakened the bones or by acute trauma. Both conditions require emergency care and most likely, surgical repair. The latter happened to a recent patient of ours.

Mandibular Fracture Patient WilsonWilson is a three-pound, 13-week-old Yorkie mix that was referred to us in January 2017 by his primary care veterinarian who had seen him for an evaluation of blood coming from his mouth. As a newly introduced pup into his home, Wilson had escaped from his crate and had possibly been playing tug-of-war with a larger adult dog in the household when he was injured.

AVCS External Skeletal FixationWhen Wilson arrived, he was too painful and anxious for us  to us to thoroughly examine, so he was anesthetized and a full exam with skull radiographs were done. He was diagnosed with a mid-body right mandibular (jaw) fracture. Surgical intervention was recommended to ensure the best possible outcome for proper jaw alignment. In Wilson’s case, an external fixator was elected to repair the fracture. Post-operative radiographs revealed appropriate implant placement and fracture alignment. Wilson was up and eating a wet-food slurry as soon as he was awake and he went home the very same day. Within a few days, he was back to eating regular soft food without issue.

Wilson recently came in to for recheck x-rays and to have his external fixator removed. We’re happy to report that his jaw fracture has healed well and his bite is properly aligned.

If your pet requires advanced oral surgery, your primary care veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary dentist or a board-certified veterinary surgeon for treatment. At ASCS, we perform a variety of oral surgeries and are always happy to evaluate a patient for oral surgical options. Simply give us a call at (206) 545-4322 or message our Front Desk.

For more information on pet dental health, visit the following resources:

AVMA: February is Pet Dental Health Month
American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC)
Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)
PetMD: Pet Dentistry: Why Dogs (and Cats) Need Dental Care Too


Posted February 22, 2017 by ASCS in Pet Health with No Comments and tagged as , , ,

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