Dental disease is the most prevalent disease among dogs and cats. If left untreated it can quickly go from a minor case of bad breath and brown teeth to pain, tooth loss and more serious illnesses. The same bacteria that causes dental disease can lead to chronic infections within your pets heart, liver and kidneys if left to spread throughout your pets’ body.
Signs of Dental Disease:
- Tooth loss or loose teeth
- Bad breath
- Abnormal or excessive drooling
- Change in chewing or eating habits
- Swallowing food whole
- Going to the food bowl but not eating
- Subdued behavior
- Bleeding gums
- Brown crust on teeth
- Irregular lumps/bumps on jaw
- Pawing at face
- Facial swelling
During your pets’ annual or semi annual physical we will also do a dental exam, checking for signs of dental disease and assigning a 1 to 4 stage dental score to your pets mouth.
Stage 1: Gingivitis and plaque. (red gums, yellowish-gray film on teeth)
Stage 2: Early periodontal (dental) disease, gums red, swollen and painful, bad breath
Stage 3: Severe plaque build up, bleeding gums, painful deep pocket infection, bone loss
Stage 4: Pain, infection is destroying the gums, teeth and bones of your pets’ mouth, bacteria is spreading via the bloodstream, other organs may be affected
If your pet has a dental score of 2 or above you will be encouraged to make a dental appointment. Just like when you go to the dentist, we will scrape off the plaque, x ray if necessary, examine and clean the teeth above and below the gum line, check gums for infection and disease, followed by a polish to remove and smooth defects on the teeth surfaces which can provide a foothold for bacteria to grow. Unlike when you go to the dentist though, we will anesthetize your pet before working on them, and monitor them closely throughout the procedure and during recovery.
The higher the dental score the more involved the cleaning and repair, often with scores of 3 or 4 extractions and minor surgery is required, so having a yearly cleaning is far more cost effective for you and more comfortable for your pet.
Caring for Your Pet's Dental Health
Fortunately it’s fairly easy to keep your pet from suffering from dental disease. We suggest;
* A once a year veterinarian dental exam and cleaning (if needed)
* Feed your pet with a special dry pet food made to clean the teeth while your pet eats.
* Begin brushing your pet’s teeth regularly; Ask us we’ll show you how.
There are also oral rinses, for those pets or owners who can’t handle brushing, specialized chews that can be given daily to treat plaque build up and water additives that fight bacteria and bad breath. Doing all of the above or using a combination of them will improve your pet’s dental health.
Steps to Brushing your Pet's Teeth
Most important, always make this process a positive experience for your pet and for you. Always use praise, positive reinforcement, treats and play time as a reward for a session of brushing teeth and eventually you and your pet will look forward to it. This learning process can take time, anywhere from 1 to 3 months to complete all the steps and develop the habit, but don’t give up because the reward for your pet is a healthier life!
1) Pick a type of toothbrush and paste that works for you and your pet. (Don’t use human toothpaste, it’s not made to be eaten and could make your pet ill.)
2) Pick a time and place both comfortable and convenient to brush your pets teeth, this will help you form a consistent routine.
3) Put some toothpaste on the end of your finger and call out ‘treat’ while offering it to your pet. Once they have licked it off your finger use praise to assure your pet that they have done well, this will reinforce the behavior. (repeat this step for about a week, then proceed to step 4)
4) When offering the toothpaste from your finger, try sliding your finger around on their gums. This can be a slow process, slowly work from the front to the back of their mouth. If your pet starts to stress out over this, stop and give praise. Don’t force them to endure more. (Shift back and forth between this step and step 3 until your pet is completely comfortable with the process.)
5) Apply toothpaste to the toothbrush, and encourage your pet to lick it off, praise. This is also a good time to start lifting up the sides of your pets lips while they are distracted by the toothpaste. (Again, if your pet seems stressed by this process, shift back to step 4 until your pet is comfortable.)
6) Now, hold your pets lip and start sliding the toothbrush, with toothpaste on it, over the outside surface of the teeth. Slowly, day by day move from the front teeth to the back and speed up the brush strokes. (You don’t have to work on the inside of the teeth because the tongue helps keep them clean.) If this gets frustrating ease off and shift back to step 5 until you’re both more comfortable with the process
7) Last step, while brushing your pets teeth try to hold the brush at a 45 degree angle to their gums, this will maximize the plaque that you remove. Also, slowly lengthen the time you are brushing their teeth, depending on the size of the mouth an adequate brushing should only take 30 to 90 seconds.
(note; Always use toothpaste that is made for animals! Animal toothpaste is made with special enzymes that help break down the build up of plaque in an animals mouth. Human toothpaste can contain xylitol, fluoride, bleaches and foaming agents that are harmful to your pet if swallowed.)