Saturday, February 4, 2012

Talking Teeth

by Nancy Kay, DVM  

Is your dog’s bad breath sabotaging your cuddle time? Is your kitty drooling while nibbling her kibble? If so, your four-legged family member likely has dental disease. A recent study of Banfield Pet Hospital’s 770-hospital network identified dental disease as the most common malady among pets, affecting 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs over three years of age.

Sadie&toothbrush1
Sorry, this doesn't qualify as toothbrushing.
Most dental diseases, including halitosis (bad breath) and gingivitis (gum disease) are caused by tartar accumulation. 

All cats and dogs can develop dental tartar, but small breed dogs are particularly predisposed. Toy Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians and Shetland Sheepdogs are at greatest risk, according to the Banfield study.

Be sure to inspect your pet’s teeth and gums on a regular basis just as you would his or her skin and haircoat.

Here’s the key to getting a good look- don’t try to pry your pet’s jaws open lest you desire to engage in a wrestling match.  Rather, with the mouth remaining closed, simply pull those flabby lips up, down, and then back (as if he is smiling) to get a good view of the gums and teeth. Look for tartar accumulation (brown colored material that’s adhered to the teeth) redness or swelling of the gums, and broken or loose teeth.

If your pet does develop significant tartar and gingivitis, he’ll need a thorough dental cleaning. 

Dental X-rays may be recommended to detect abscesses or bone loss. Should such significant abnormalities be found, your vet will discuss antibiotic therapy and the pros and cons of removing the affected teeth versus a root canal procedure.

The best way to prevent tartar buildup is to brush your pet’s teeth (including those way in the back) at least two to three times a week. 


Ask your vet or members of the clinic staff to share their secrets for success when it comes to brushing.  Have them observe and provide critique as you demonstrate how you brush those canines (in cats they should be called “felines”), incisors, and molars.

What can you do besides brushing?  

Dental chews, additives to your pet’s water, products applied to the teeth and gums, and specially formulated dry foods that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance can help prevent tartar buildup.  However, nothing beats regular brushing (sorry!).

Part of your pet’s annual physical examination performed by your veterinarian should include careful inspection of the teeth and gums. 


Early identification and treatment of dental disease goes a long way in preventing serious consequences.

Now it’s your turn to talk about teeth.  What have you experienced with your dogs and cats?

***

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook


Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

Articles by Dr. Kay:
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning 
Reasonable Expectations: The Ability to Discuss Your Internet Research With Your Vet
Finding Dr. Wonderful And Your Mutt's Mayo Clinic: Getting Started
Even The Best Veterinarian Can Make A Mistake
A Different Way to Spay
Making Tough Medical Decisions For Your Dog: Lily's Story


Related articles:
Anesthesia-Free Dental Cleaning  
Speaking For Spot: The Single Most Important Dog Book You Will Ever Read

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