Hello, Colorado Springs!
This is one of your local veterinarians, Dr. Craig Hyden from Crossroads Animal Hospital, giving you the skinny on why we vets push dental health in your dog and cat.Dental Disease
Same ol’ song and dance… meaning that oral/dental disease is still the most common disease in dogs and cats. I diagnose a minimum of 2-3 animals that need a dental procedure each day that I see appointments.
Back in the dark ages when I was a kid, dogs and cats had dirty mouths, and that was to be expected. Times have changed, though, and we have learned how damaging to the rest of the body those dirty mouths are. Dogs and cats build plaque just like people do, and within a couple of days, the plaque can turn to tartar. This stucco-like tartar traps the bacteria on the tooth and then creeps its way to the gum line. Once it hits the gum line, you guessed it, you now have gingivitis. Once your pet has gingivitis (red, inflamed gums) and associated tartar, this means the bacteria have a highway into your pet’s bloodstream. The heart, liver and kidneys can take a beating from this constant showering of bacteria. It is very common to find these organs fighting and struggling due to bad teeth.
Once your pet has dental disease, it’s time for your veterinarian to perform the needed treatment via a dental procedure. This is an anesthetic procedure that will range from mild to wild depending on how bad the disease process is. Frequently these procedures may require oral surgery (not just extractions) and veterinarians who are boarded in dentistry perform this type of oral surgery all the time. The only difference between your pet’s procedure and yours is that your pet must be under anesthesia in order for it to be done safely, properly, and within the proper medical ethics of treatment. Also, your pet won’t spit and rinse for us, much less open his/her mouth longer than two seconds, so anesthesia is required. X-rays, probing, measuring, cleaning, extractions, oral surgery and suturing sites closed is all done, as well as local anesthetic blocks, just like your oral surgeon or dentist does for you.
What can you do to prevent this? The best thing you can do is brush your pet’s teeth every day. If you can’t swing a daily brushing, aim for every other day. If brushing isn’t an option, the use of quality dental treats can have some benefit. Ask your veterinarian which products he/she prefers. Some dental treats have sodium hexametaphosphate, which helps prevent the plaque from turning into hard tartar. Once your pet has tartar, it’s reached the point where a professional cleaning/dental procedure is necessary. Keep the plaque back!!
Breed and Size Matter
Yes, they do. Let’s start with cats. Cats have far more fine, sharp, pointy, thin teeth, and when I see a low-grade infection in the exam room, please know that it’s actually worse than I can physically see. Cats’ tooth enamel erodes quickly at the gum line, and BANG! Sylvester just lost that tooth. It’s a sad but very common—and preventable—problem. Small dogs have proportionately larger teeth than do big dogs, and therefore have more crowding. More crowding = more chance for plaque to build to tartar, and bingo: more dental disease. It does seem that the smaller breeds get a bad reputation when it comes to their oral health, but now you know why.
In closing, I hope your pet’s mouth stays healthy. If your pet’s oral health has not been evaluated in more than a year, I recommend scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian. We are here for you at Crossroads Animal Hospital, where your pet is our family.