Why is good dental care important for your pet?
We know that your pet will benefit from good health the same way that you do; they will live longer, be more active and happy, and have a better quality of life. People who care about their pets understand this and are looking for the benefits of good veterinary care. Human dentistry developed as a distinct field of medicine to provide both preventive and problem specific care. Anyone who knows the intense misery of a dental problem from a “toothache” or infected gums will tell you how desperate they were for relief from their pain, and how much they wished for a dentist to help them immediately. Vaccinations, good nutrition, parasite control and advances in veterinary care are allowing pets to live many times longer than a dog, cat, horse, pet rabbit or rodent living in the wild. Along with this longevity, the wide variety of breeds has contributed to the development of a number of dental diseases and problems.
The primary goals of veterinary dentistry are to stop pain and to preserve function in your pet’s mouth. Most pets with a painful mouth are never treated because their pain is hidden. You or I can tell our dentist when we hurt, but your pet can’t.
The most common symptoms of oral pain in a pet are increased mouth odor “bad breath”, loss of playfulness and increased sleeping to “get away” from the pain. Many pets show reluctance to eat dry food or chew treats they once enjoyed. Your pet will commonly act “old” when they have a painful mouth. Curing the pain will give your pet a new quality of life they haven’t had for years.
The most common health problem in dogs and cats is periodontal disease. This chronic infection of the gum tissue and jawbone commonly results in abscessed teeth that will have a “domino effect” on nearby teeth. Just like for our good oral health, your pet needs good home dental care, appropriate diet and treats and regular care by your pet’s dental professional to help prevent periodontal disease. Twice yearly dental examinations by your veterinarian can detect problems early. Professional dental cleanings (with x-rays when necessary) are performed by your veterinarian when needed to control periodontal disease. Small dogs are much more commonly affected and seriously impacted by this hidden chronic infectious disease. A promising vaccine has been developed, and is being evaluated, in the hope of reducing this disease in dogs. Many pets suffer and lose teeth unnecessarily to this disease because regular preventive care gets “put off” until the future.
Dogs commonly suffer from fractured (broken) teeth that become infected, abscessed and create chronic misery. Dogs break teeth by chewing or picking up hard objects including rocks, bones, metal objects or nylon chew toys. Never let your dog chew on an object unless it is soft enough for you to bend it in your hands. There are only two ways to treat broken teeth to prevent them from developing tooth root abscesses in the jawbone. They can be saved with surgery, or they need to be extracted completely. Not providing care for these broken teeth results in lifelong pain for your pet.
Cats commonly develop resorptive lesions (a kind of cat cavity) that are very painful. Between 25 to 33% of all cats suffer silently from these hidden problems. Research has yet to find the cause of, or the way to prevent, these miserable lesions. Teeth that are affected by resorptive lesions need to be surgically removed to stop the pain.
Horses, rabbits and rodents develop a unique set of dental problems due to the continuous growth, and uneven wear of their teeth. Care provided by a knowledgeable professional can vastly improve their quality of life and longevity.
Good dental care for your pet is a joint responsibility between you and your veterinarian. Daily home dental care, appropriate foods and chew treats can help your pet at home. Your pet will need regular examinations and professional dental care when necessary to help prevent years of silent suffering with hidden chronic dental disease. Your pet will live years longer, have a happy life and will return your love with big, wet, sweet-smelling kisses!