Pet Dental Health

In times past, trips to the dentist may not have been common for a family’s household pets.  But now our furry family members are living longer and proper dental care is becoming more and more important.  The more studies that are done, the more we find that clean teeth benefit not only the mouth, but the entire body.  Internal organs like the heart, the kidneys, and the liver are all vulnerable to the effects of dental disease.  Such damage, along with the inflammation and discomfort that occurs in the mouth, can truly decrease both the quantity and the quality of your pet’s life.

But how do you know if your pet has developed dental disease?  Sometimes you may not notice any outward symptoms, as our pets seem to hide the pain of dental disease much better than their human counterparts.  But oftentimes things like bad breath, a preference for soft food over hard, chewing on only one side of the mouth, or excessive salivation may be noted.  In bad cases, you may actually see blood in the saliva and find that your pet vocalizes in pain when eating or won’t eat at all.

There are several types of dental disease pets typically suffer from. The most common is periodontal disease, which is characterized by plaque and tartar buildup that leads to excessive bacteria in the mouth.  This causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) and damages the teeth, including the ligaments and bone that hold them in place. Other diseases include fractured or worn-down teeth, tooth root infections, oral tumors, overgrown gum tissue, and even cavities. In cats, we also see things such as tooth resorption, which occurs when the tooth is broken down and resorbed into the bone of the jaw, and stomatitis, a severe inflammation of the gum tissues.

As for our more exotic pets, the teeth of rabbits and rodents can overgrow, causing pain, difficulty eating, and impacted tooth roots. Ferrets often develop periodontal disease like dogs and cats do, and their predisposition for mischief can also lead to broken teeth. Our reptilian pets develop their own type of stomatitis and oral infections as well.

To help prevent or manage dental disease in your pets, there are several things you can do at home.  The best thing is brushing the teeth.  Currently for dogs and cats, we recommend daily brushing using a soft-bristled brush along with an appropriate pet toothpaste.  If brushing is not possible, prescription dental diets are a good option, with kibble that “scrubs” the surface of the teeth as your dog or cat bites into it.  Many dental chew treats are also available, though not all are created equal and our veterinarians can help you in choosing what is best for your pet.  

In our office, every full examination that your pet receives includes a look into the mouth.  If dental disease is detected, then we will recommend a dental procedure.  At EYVC, a dental procedure is very similar to what would be done at a dentist’s office, including a full oral exam, dental radiographs as needed, scaling of the teeth and polishing.  The big difference is that your pet will be safely under anesthesia for the entire procedure.  In instances of bad disease, our veterinarians may also recommend dental extractions, which dogs and cats typically tolerate very well.  Local antibiotic treatments and other medications, both injections and oral meds, may also be used to help treat your pet’s condition.  Though uncommon, some pets may have dental diseases that are so rare or severe that they would be best served by a veterinary dental specialist, in which case our veterinarians can provide a referral.

At East York Veterinary Center, we take dental health seriously.  Call to schedule an appointment today so we can get your pet’s pearly whites bright and that breath smelling fresh!