Pets Need Dental Care, too! 

by Dr. Lance Weidenbaum and Dr. Michael Shaff

Just like a human, your pet's dental condition can affect their health in many ways.  

Dogs and cats need regular teeth cleaning: To help your pets remain healthy, we look at their teeth during every exam and report to you on their condition. If your pet needs a cleaning or is having a problem, we'll let you know! 

Gum disease causes heart and kidney problems in pets: Most of us are aware that gum disease in humans can contribute significantly to heart disease, but many people don't realize that pets have the same issues. Gum disease in pets is not only painful, scientists have made a direct connection between gum disease  and heart and vascular diseases in pets. Preventing gum disease is one key to good heart health for your pet. 

Other dental problems that can affect your pet's health, comfort or even their behavior include:

  • Broken or chipped teeth
  • Foreign objects stuck between teeth
  • Mis-aligned teeth 
  • Baby teeth that never fell out
  • Abscesses and infections

What are the signs of dental problems? Even though our pets are no longer wild animals, they still have the instinct to hide pain and discomfort. In the wild, animals who are unwell or weak are the first victims of predators, so our dogs and cats hide their pain to protect themselves. There are signs to help you tell that dental care is needed:

  • Red, discolored, or irritated gums
  • Teeth covered in tartar or discolored
  • Loose teeth or broken teeth
  • Sensitivity in the mouth area
  • Bad breath
  • Drooling or dropping food while trying to eat
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss (which can also be caused by many other serious conditions)

What can you do at home? Many pets can be taught to accept tooth brushing on a daily basis, and this is the best way to care for their teeth. Special toothpaste for pets must be used; human toothpaste contains chemicals and abrasives that can sicken your pet. Patience and kindness are needed in teaching your pet to accept tooth brushing, and the process can take several months. Steps include giving your pet its special toothpaste on your finger, then gently inserting your finger into the pets mouth, then later using the toothpaste on a brush, and finally introducing the brushing motion. Each step should be repeated gently until your pet accepts it before moving to the next stage. 

Why does dental care require anesthesia? Many pet owners are concerned about the need for anesthesia during dental cleanings. This procedure is to protect both your pet and our veterinary staff. Your pet will not understand that we're helping him or her stay healthy, so the process can be frightening. We aren't able to thoroughly check the teeth of an animal on both sides without being able to handle the mouth, and a conscious animal who is scared is likely to bite. Anesthesia during dental cleanings gives us the time and control to clean under your pet's gums, both the inside and outside of the teeth, and we can check for any serious conditions in the back teeth, such as an abscess. We evaluate every pet before administering anesthesia to ensure your pet's safety. 

More information about pet dental care: The American Veterinary Dental College has an excellent website to explain various dental diseases of pets, what owners can do to develop good pet dental hygiene, and what some of the more common conditions look like.  

If you have any questions about your pet's dental condition, or if you'd like to learn more about teaching your pet to accept toothbrushing, give us a call at 954-421-2244. 

Photo credit, dog: greg westfall. / Foter / CC BY 2.0

Photo credit, cat: PDXdj / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Phone: 954-421-2244   Serving Deerfield Beach, Coconut Creek, and Boca Raton from our offices at Hillsboro Blvd and  Powerline Road in the Dunkin' Donuts plaza.    © Deer Run Animal Hospital 2017