Did you know that February is Dental Health Month for us and our furry companions? It is estimated that by the age of 3 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Similar to humans periodontal disease affects the gum tissue, red swollen gums, bad breath and that build up of tartar are all signs of this disease. The buildup of bacteria and swollen gums can also affect heart, liver and kidney function by entering the bloodstream via the mouth.
So what can you do? Talk to your veterinarian and have them do an exam and look at your pet’s teeth to come up with a game plan. In many cases a dental cleaning will be recommended. Veterinary dental cleanings have come a long way and are very similar to human dental cleanings. An ultrasonic scaler is used to remove the heavy tartar buildup which is then followed up by a polisher to remove any missed tartar and smooth the surface of the teeth out. The veterinarian will then perform a thorough oral exam checking for any pockets in the gumline or any cavities or fractures. In some clinics dental radiographs are also performed to help the veterinarian check below the gumline and examine the roots of all the teeth. Dental cleanings with a veterinarian are an anesthetic procedure with placement of an endotracheal tube to prevent all the tartar chunks and water from going down into your pets lungs, check back next time to read up on anesthesia safety and why it is so expensive!
So your pet had a dental cleaning and now you’re wondering what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites white? Daily brushing is best, maybe not the most realistic for most of us but the brushing helps remove the plaque that builds up and turns into the hard tartar. Always use a pet specific toothpaste since the human toothpaste contains high levels of Xylitol which is harmful to pets. There are also veterinary diets that target dental health, these contain safe enzymes that help break down plaque and large shaped kibble so your pet bites into the kibble vs. swallowing them whole. So here is to a month of clean teeth and animal kisses so brush up!