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Pets Have Teeth Too!

Author: Dr. Christine Calvert

Cats and Dogs seldom develop tooth cavities, as do humans. However the dog and cat are not without major dental problems.  In fact, the most common dental problem that we find in pets is considered far worse than cavities; “PERIODONTAL DISEASE.”  This condition affects the teeth and gums as well as the bone around the teeth.


By three years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, other than bad breath, there are very few signs of this condition that are noticeable to pet owners.   Treatment often comes too late to prevent extensive disease.  As a result, periodontal disease is under-treated and may cause multiple problems in the mouth in addition to causing infections in other internal organs. The bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream through the bleeding gum causing such problems as: heart valve infections (endocarditis), liver disease (hepatitis), kidney infections (nephritis), urinary tract infections, and pneumonia.


Food material, bacteria, and saliva accumulate and adhere to the tooth surface, forming a soft “plaque.”  This material can be easily removed at this point. Brushing the teeth is the most important prevention at this stage.   However, if buildup is allowed to continue, it becomes hard and “chalk-like” from its mineral content (Calculus or Tartar).  The tartar buildup causes infection of the gums (Gingivitis), with subsequent inflammation and infection of the tooth socket (Periodontal Disease).  The teeth then become loose, and may even fall out. The gums become reddened, swollen, and may bleed easily.   All of these stages are very painful to your pet.


In addition to the above medical problems, the pet will have a bad mouth odor and will experience chronic pain, even though they may not outwardly show that these problems exists.  It is common for a pet to suddenly feel better and “act like a puppy or kitten again” after a dental procedure has removed the pain and infection from their mouth.


After a professional dental cleaning, follow these tips to aid in preventing dental disease:

1.      Dental diets and treats: Hill’s Prescription Diet t/dÒ is available for dogs, and Royal Canin Feline Dental treats for cats can be used as a treat or as a balanced diet every day. 


2.      Have teeth examined at least once every year for tartar buildup.   Pets vary considerably in the amount of tartar that accumulates.


3.      The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) awards a Seal of Acceptance for products such as dental chews  that successfully meet pre-set criteria for effectiveness in controlling plaque and/or calculus deposition in dogs and cats. Look for their seal to ensure your pet is getting safe and effective help for their dental health!


4.      Use a pet toothpaste and brush on a regular basis, ideally 3-5 times a week.  Human toothpaste should not be used since it can be toxic if swallowed by your pet.


These recommendations will help ensure that your pet has a long, healthy life and fresh breath too!  To see if your pet would benefit from a dental cleaning call Calvert Veterinary Center to schedule your pet’s dental exam. 


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