Does your cat or dogs breath smell? Chances are it is secondary to dental disease. Dental disease is the most commonly diagnosed problem in both cats and dogs on general physical exam. Long-term build-up of plaque and tartar leads to bacterial infection of the gums and left untreated, can progress to damage of internal organs and higher cost of treatment. Not to mention, you may not want your smelly fuzzy friend sitting next you on the couch. Luckily, there is much you can do to treat and prevent dental disease!
February is Pet Dental Health Month and is a great time to have your pet’s dental health checked by your local veterinarian. Though some pet’s teeth may look ‘OK’ on the outside with minimal tartar, most dental issues occur unseen under the gum line. If your vet diagnoses dental disease, the ideal treatment is a dental cleaning under general anesthesia. Veterinary professionals will ultrasonically scale the teeth and under the gums as well as polish just as is performed by human dentists. General anesthesia is the recommended standard of care as ultrasonic cleaning and tooth extraction is not tolerated well by animals. “Anesthesia-free” dentals should be avoided and do not provide the proper level of oral care. Most local veterinary hospitals provide dental services, but occasionally, severe dental cases require the care of a board-certified veterinary dentist. After a dental cleaning, owners should notice a good change in their pet’s breath and a plaque-free mouth.
Prevention of dental disease is key and can be easily achieved. Young pets with no evidence of disease and those pets that have just had a full dental cleaning are ideal to start prevention. Daily dental chews, whether over-the-counter or from your veterinarian are simple ways to slow down tartar build-up. Maintaining dogs on a dry food-only diet is also helpful. Brushing teeth once a day is ideal, but not realistic for most owners. Genetics play a large role in which pets develop worse disease than others, with small breed dogs being over-represented despite good at-home prevention. Give your pet’s mouth a look (or a sniff!) this month.