Pets can seem all but indestructible in their everyday activities, from drinking out of puddles that we would never touch, to carrying massive sticks in their mouths, and chewing on bones with their teeth. In reality, however, pets can suffer many of the same tooth and gum problems as their human owners.
The more you know about common pet dental challenges, the more effectively you (and your pet’s veterinarian) can keep your pet’s mouth in optimal condition for many years to come. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about pet dental care.
What Dental Conditions Do Pets Commonly Face?
Pets can encounter numerous dental threats and problems throughout their lives. The most common of these, periodontal disease, affects many pets to some degree.Periodontal disease causes bacteria attracted to dental tartar to trigger an inflammatory reaction. This reaction damages the tissues around the teeth, causing tooth loss.
Additionally, dental injuries sometimes occur in pets. A blow to the jaw can crack or break a tooth, leaving the sensitive nerve tissue within vulnerable to a bacterial infection.
In some cases, pets may develop oral cancer. This disease may not appear evident to owners, depending on where in the mouth it occurs. However, oral cancer can spread rapidly if it goes untreated.
How Can You Recognize a Potential Pet Dental Issue?
Pets may resist showing signs of pain, a natural defense against predators that might take advantage of any weakness. However, you can often recognize telltale symptoms of dental problems if you examine your pet’s mouth for pus, bleeding, strange lumps, foul breath, and obvious tooth damage.
Your pet’s behavior may reveal a dental problem. Watch for signs such as whining, drooling, resistance to petting, changes in chewing habits, or refusal to eat.
Why Do You Need to Keep Your Pet’s Preventative Checkups and Cleanings?
Preventative checkups typically take place as part of a general wellness exam. Adult pets usually need at least one exam per year. Senior pets and pets prone to dental issues may need even more frequent checkups. These exams, can detect dental problems in their early stages, allowing for immediate treatment.
How Do Veterinarians Address Pets’ Dental Needs?
During a standard dental wellness exam, your veterinarian will most likely perform a deep dental cleaning with the aid of general anesthesia. While you may have heard of some clinics that offer anesthesia-free cleanings, your pet will receive more thorough cleaning while anesthetized. Anesthesia keeps your pet still and calm. Additionally, anesthesia allows x-rays to be taken of your pet’s mouth. It is impossible to know whether extractions need to be performed without taking x-rays.
Veterinarians can treat periodontal disease by removing tartar both above and below the gum line while also polishing the tooth roots, a procedure called root planing and scaling. A tooth suffering from a severe periodontal infection may require extraction. Most pets can manage to eat more easily after the removal ofa painfully infected tooth.
Veterinary dental specialists may manage to save a cracked or broken tooth instead of extracting it. If only the outer enamel has fractured, a dental crown can cover the damage, which will protect the inner nerve tissue and reinforce the tooth against further damage. Deeper damage may call for root canal therapy, followed by the application of a crown.
What Can You Do to Protect Your Pet’s Mouth Between Vet Visits?
Home dental hygiene can prove just as beneficial for pets as for humans. Your veterinarian can recommend toothpastes and brushes suitable for your pet and show you how to use them. (Don’t use toothpastes meant for humans, as these can have toxic effects on pets.) Pet-friendly toothpastes usually feature meat flavors that pets enjoy.
Some pet foods, chews, and treats can actually help to scrape plaque off of teeth before it can harden into tartar. If you decide to pursue this strategy, purchase only those products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC).
Leave your pet’s dental health to the professionals at 1st Pet Veterinary Centers. Contact any of our locations to schedule a dental exam.