Pet Dental Health: Dogs and Cats Need Dental Care Too!

By March 7, 2022 August 18th, 2022 No Comments

Dental care plays an important role in your pet’s overall health, so we’re sharing some important information about why we make pet dental care a priority at Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital (MSAH).

By 3 years of age, most dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease. Bad breath is the first sign you’ll likely notice if your pet has periodontal disease. But that’s just the tip of the problem. Also referred to as dental or gum disease, periodontal disease can not only cause pain, infection, gum recession, and tooth loss, but also changes in the heart, kidneys, and liver.

What Is Periodontal Disease?

Plaque forms on teeth (pet and human alike) constantly. When it’s not removed regularly (through brushing), it turns into hardened tartar within about 24 hours. Plaque continues to form on top of the tartar.

Tartar can’t be brushed away. It has to be removed during a professional dental cleaning.

If these layers of bacteria-laden tartar aren’t removed through a veterinary cleaning, the pet will end up with inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), which will progress to infection and loss of tooth support (advanced periodontal disease).

When pets don’t receive regular dental care, they may need more than just a cleaning. Dental extractions may be required to remove infected teeth and make a pet’s mouth healthy again.

What Are Signs of Dental Problems in Pets?

Contact us if you notice:

  • Bad breath
  • Brown or yellow teeth
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Reluctance or refusal to eat or play with toys
  • Dropping food from the mouth
  • Growling at food
  • Chewing abnormally
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pawing at the mouth or face
  • Sneezing

Bad breath in pets isn’t normal. It’s almost always a sign of oral health issues.

How Can You Help Keep Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy?

  1. Bring Your Pet In for a Dental Exam

Bringing your pet in to MSAH for regular veterinary dental exams and cleanings (as recommended) is the first step to achieving better dental health for your dog or cat.

For every dental procedure, we use digital x-rays (radiographs) to evaluate what your pet’s teeth look like under the gums. We can only assess about 40% of a dog or cat’s teeth by just looking at them, so we use state-of-the-art digital x-rays to see what might be lurking unseen, such as painful root disease, tooth resorption, or the extent of a cracked tooth. That way, we can be sure we’re properly treating your pet.

Our team also takes plenty of precautions to make sure that dental procedures stay as safe as possible for our patients:

  • We perform a preanesthetic exam and bloodwork (general health panels) before a dental cleaning or surgery to ensure that pets are healthy enough to undergo anesthesia and to tailor anesthesia medications to individual pets as needed.
  • We also actively monitor pets during and after dental procedures to make sure their vital signs stay within normal ranges, similar to protocols that are used when people undergo anesthesia.

During a dental cleaning, we will assess your pet’s teeth one by one, by:

  • Checking the periodontal depths for pockets, which are spaces below the gumline, around your pet’s teeth, that have become infected. You may be familiar with this process if your own dentist has read numbers while probing your gums; the numbers indicate periodontal pockets and their depths. The larger the number, the larger the pockets and the less attached the gums are to the teeth.
  • Looking for any lesions (masses) or other oral issues.
  • Examining the extent of tartar accumulation above and below the gumline (digital x-rays also come in handy here).
  • Removing built-up plaque and tartar above and below the gumline with an ultrasonic scaler (which is why an anesthetic dental cleaning is so important).
  • Polishing your pet’s teeth to smooth their surface, which can help keep plaque from easily sticking to the teeth.

Anesthetic cleanings help keep your pet safe while we examine and clean their teeth above and below the gumline (something most pets will not sit still for otherwise).

If your pet needs additional dental care, such as extractions, we will make sure you understand what needs to be done and why.

  1. Make Home Care a Priority

You play an essential role in your pet’s dental health. Brushing your pet’s teeth is the cornerstone of dental care and one of the most important steps you can take to help keep dental disease at bay. We’d be happy to give you tips to help get you started!

Never use human toothpaste in pets. It contains ingredients that can make your pet sick.

Although daily brushing is ideal, we understand that it may not always be practical. Fortunately, a number of dental products can help control plaque and tartar buildup in your pet, including:

  • Dental diets and chews
  • Dental toys
  • Oral rinses and sprays
  • Drinking water additives
  • Dental sealants (which will first need to be applied after a professional dental cleaning and then reapplied at home)

Ask us which products we recommend for your pet. You can also look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance.

By being proactive about dental care, you can help protect your pet’s overall health.

Have You Scheduled Your Pet’s Dental Exam?

We recommend that pets visit Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital at least once a year for a dental evaluation. We’ll examine your pet’s teeth and gums and let you know what we recommend to maintain or improve your pet’s oral health.

If your pet is showing signs of dental trouble, however, don’t wait for your pet’s regular exam! Call us at (530) 926-5266, or send us a message using our online form.

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