This month you may have given smooches to your Valentine, but how about your pet? Whether you receive many kisses from your dog or cat (or a rare few) have you noticed anything about their breath or teeth? You may want to pay attention to how often you go on dental checkups for your pet. Many pet owners may not take special note of their pet’s dental hygiene, but dental health is one of the most commonly neglected areas in pet health.
What is Periodontal Disease?
Four out of five dogs over the age of 3 years old have a kind of dental disease called periodontal disease. In fact, by the time your pet is 3, it is very likely that he or she has at least some early evidence of its onset. If preventative measures aren’t put in place, the disease will worsen.
Periodontal disease starts with something that is familiar to most of us: plaque. At first, plaque is soft and can be removed by simple brushing or, in pets, chewing hard foods and toys. However, plaque that is not removed will harden into tartar. When this happens above the gumline, removal is still relatively simple.
The problem for your pet will occur when plaque and tartar build up below the gumline, setting the stage for infection and damage to the jawbone and other surrounding tissue. At its most viscous, periodontal disease destroys the tissue surrounding the tooth and the bony socket that holds the tooth in place. Ultimately, the tooth will become loose. Advanced periodontal disease can also cause health problems in your pet’s kidney, liver, and heart muscles.
Fortunately, these problem can be avoided by simple dental checkups and cleanings. A regularly scheduled dental checkup is the most effective way of monitoring your pet’s dental health and preventing more serious complications down the line. It is recommended that all pets undergo dental examination and cleaning once a year.
What Happens During a Checkup?
A routine dental checkup consists of an oral exam of your pet’s mouth by a veterinarian. Because most dental disease begins and festers below the gumline where it cannot be seen, a thorough dental cleaning and evaluation are performed under anesthesia. X-rays can also be used to examine the health of the jaw and tooth roots.
Why Does My Pet Have to Undergo Anesthesia?
At our own dentists, we have to sit still and hold our mouths open in order for the dentist to work on us. However, our pets are less able to understand the concept and may react by moving, trying to escape, or even biting. Anesthesia on your pet will make the dental examination and cleaning much safer and less stressful for you, your pet, and the veterinary team.
The American Veterinary Dental College does not recommend dental cleanings without anesthesia. These types of procedures do not allow for cleaning or inspection below the gumline. Furthermore, “anesthesia-free” dental cleanings require pets to be restrained, which can be uncomfortable and frightening for your pet.
How Can I Take Care of My Pet’s Teeth At Home?
Prevention of dental disease in your pet is simpler than you think. The idea is to regularly remove plaque and tartar from his or her teeth. Regular brushing is the single most effective way you can keep their teeth healthy. While daily brushing is best, brushing several times a week is effective nonetheless.
If you haven’t brought your furry friend for a dental checkup in a while, we recommend that you do so as soon as possible to minimize future complications and pain. Find a trusted and well-staffed animal hospital near you, such as Cherrelyn Animal Hospital, and make an appointment for a dental checkup for your pet today.