S M I L E !
February is National Pet
Dental Health Month!
I was unaware that pets have dental
problems. Is it common?
Periodontal disease is the
number one disease of pets today. It affects 85% of adult dogs
and cats, and can strike pets as young as 1 year of age.
Dental disease is influenced
by genetics, diet and home care. Fortunately, it is very
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease is a term
used to describe inflammation or infection of the tissues
surrounding the tooth.
Accumulation of tartar and
calculus on the teeth trap bacteria at the gumline. Untreated
infection then spreads into the tooth root and surrounding bone,
and ultimately the tooth loosens and falls out.
This is a painful condition
for your pet. Periodontal infections send a bacterial shower
into the blood-stream every time your pet chews. In turn, these
bacteria can adversely affect the heart valves, lungs, liver,
How can I tell if my pet has dental
Clinical signs of disease may
- bad breath
- excessive salivation
- visible brown tartar on the tooth
- appetite changes
- a new reluctance to eat hard foods or
to play with hard toys
- facial swelling
- raining wounds under the eyes
- weight loss
- pawing at the mouth
- changes in behavior.
Tooth loss, loose teeth,
bleeding gums, and pus between the teeth or at the gum line are
indicators of advanced periodontal disease.
What should I do if I suspect my pet may
have dental disease?
A thorough oral examination
should be performed by your veterinarian at least once a year,
or any time you suspect there may be problems.
Your veterinarian may
recommend a cleaning procedure which includes ultrasonic scaling
above and below the gumline to remove tartar, probing for
periodontal pockets, fluoride application, and polishing.
In some cases taking x-rays,
applying an oral barrier sealant, and possibly even surgically
extracting diseased teeth may be indicated.
Many owners are surprised to
see the dramatic improvements in pets that have been treated for
advanced dental disease. The pet's activity level, appetite, and
energy often improve significantly.
How can I help prevent dental disease in
Periodic professional dental
cleanings at your veterinarian's office coupled with home dental
care is a critical element of total healthcare for our pets.
Daily tooth brushing is
ideal, but do not use human toothpaste when brushing your pet's
teeth. The toothpaste may cause tummy upset and the fluoride
levels can be toxic to their kidneys.
Although there is no
substitute for brushing, there are other home care options when
brushing simply is not possible. These include wiping the teeth
with medicated wipes, rinsing the mouth with an antiseptic
prescription rinse, using chews such as CET Hextra Chews, and
specially formulated dental diets such as t/d by Science Diet.
While it may be tempting to
give pets hard items to chew on to "clean" their
teeth, real bones, rocks, hard toys such as Nylabones, and even
ice can cause fractures of the teeth and are best avoided,
especially in dogs under a year of age.
Dental disease is one of the
most prevalent, and often most hidden diseases in our pets. With
early intervention, the negative effects on the pet's entire
body are easily reversible.
Please contact your
veterinarian if you have any additional questions about how to
best care for your pet's oral health.
Written by Dr. Kathy Kallay
(C) 2007, K. M. Kallay
Dental Health from