Oral Health is very important for the comfort and longevity of our pets. Periodontal disease (gum inflammation and infection) is the most prevalent disease in dogs and cats. Studies indicate that significant periodontal disease left untreated can cut an average of two years off a pet’s life. Untreated oral disease is more than just bad breath but truly a systemic disease with serious deleterious effects on the organs such as the heart and kidneys.
Fortunately, periodontal disease is treatable and preventable with dental cleaning, tooth brushing and rinsing, dental chews and other oral health strategies.
Here at Animal Medical Hospital we are often asked by clients how frequently their pets teeth should be cleaned. Our answer is, “As frequently as necessary.” This could be as often as every six months to a year or more likely every few years. Studies reveal that most pets develop some amount of periodontal disease by three years of age. It is honestly difficult for the pet owner to ascertain when their pets teeth need cleaning unless they smell foul breath or notice unusual behavior such as mouth tenderness, bleeding or difficulty or changes in chewing. These signs occur late in the disease process. Oral disease should be caught long before these signs appear.
Therefore it is very critical to have your pets mouth checked by your veterinarian at least once a year. The veterinarian will look initially for significant tartar which is the brown buildup of plaque that forms on pets teeth. If a pet has any significant tarter visible, they will soon need dental cleaning. If the tartar is left on the tooth it will eventually lead to gum inflammation which then leads to discomfort, pain and loosening of the tooth roots from their attachment to the bone. As an owner, if you look closely, you may see a red line of inflammation where the pink gum meets the tooth. As the disease progresses into its late stages, you might find red inflamed gums, pus, or even teeth that are loose to the touch. At this point, this is serious disease affecting the pet’s entire body.
Dental cleaning is obviously best done before any serious disease process begins. Most dental cleanings will require anesthesia to allow detailed exam, cleaning of the teeth above and below the gum line, and any possible dental surgery or extraction. The anesthetic drugs now available are very safe and effective, allowing a quick comfortable recovery.
Because this disease is so prevalent and important to the health and well being of our pets we celebrate Dental Health month every February with specials on dental exams and cleaning.