Pet dental disease, also called periodontal disease, is one of the most common clinical conditions seen by our veterinarians. This comes as no surprise when we consider that most adult dogs and cats show some signs of the disease by the time they reach 3 years of age. If left untreated, pet dental disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection, and even damage to the vital organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.
The dental health of our patients is important to us at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center. In recognition of National Pet Dental Health Month, which is observed every February, we’d like to place the spotlight on periodontal disease and what pet owners can do to prevent and treat this serious condition.
Can you imagine never brushing your teeth? The idea probably seems distasteful to you, but it’s an unfortunate reality for many pets.
Studies show that roughly 73% of cat owners and 43% of dog owners admit to never having brushed their pet’s teeth. While this may not seem like a serious issue for your pet, poor oral hygiene can lead to periodontal disease, pain and tooth loss. Moreover, the bacteria from dental disease can spread throughout the body leading to systemic health issues and a shortened life span.
If you’ve never given much thought to your pet’s oral health, it’s not too late to start taking care of their teeth. While there are several ways you can help keep your pet’s teeth healthy, daily tooth brushing is the single most effective way to prevent dental disease and associated problems.
The purpose of pet tooth brushing daily is to remove the sticky plaque that develops on the teeth before it hardens and forms into tartar. Unfortunately, once tartar has formed, it cannot be brushed off and will require a professional dental cleaning to be removed.
We are frequently asked about anesthesia-free pet dental cleanings, which have grown in popularity in recent years. This is the practice of performing a dental cleaning on a pet, which involves scaling (cleaning and scraping) the pet’s teeth to the gumline, without the use of general anesthesia.
The popularity of anesthesia-free dentals is mostly due to marketing campaigns that promote the anesthesia-free method as a less expensive alternative to a dental cleaning that is performed while the pet is under general anesthesia. Unfortunately, it is also based on misinformation regarding what is really involved in cleaning a pet’s teeth. Marketers for anesthesia-free dental cleanings also fail to mention that these dentals often make a pet’s oral problems worse and, in many cases, involve abuse and cruelty.
For pet owners seeking to minimize the number of times a pet has to be “put under” with general anesthesia, the anesthesia-free idea may seem like a great option, but the procedure is wrought with many risks and problems that, in our opinion, outweigh any perception of benefit.
Dental care isn’t just for humans. By now, most pet owners are aware of the importance of good dental hygiene for their pets, and this is evidenced by the hundreds of pet home dental care products available to pet owners everywhere. But, do these treats, chews, rinses, sprays, and water additives really have what it takes to keep your pet’s mouth in tiptop shape?
Brushing is Best!
First, and foremost, there is no substitute for daily brushing when it comes to the care of your pet’s teeth. Although, for many, the task may seem daunting, it needn’t be. Brushing your dog or cat’s teeth can take just a minute a day and the pet specific toothbrush and toothpaste products we recommend are safe and easy to use.