February is Dental Health Month
Dental Disease is probably one of the most common diseases noted on physical exams of dogs and cats each year. It is also one of the most untreated and preventable diseases in small animals. Left untreated, dental disease can lead to some minor and major life threatening conditions.
The oral cavity contains large amounts of bacteria that get embedded in the gingival and are pushed up under the gum line by tartar. Unattended, this environment causes gingival swelling (gingivitis). Abnormal amounts of bacteria and tartar also lead to bad breath (halitosis). As the condition progresses and the gums get more inflamed, they become sensitive and bleed. The bacteria then seep into the bloodstream where they can colonize and cause disease in the heart, liver, and/or the kidneys.
Signs of dental disease include bad breath, red swollen gums, a yellow brown crust near the gum line, loose or missing teeth, discomfort when the mouth or gums are touched, and decreased appetite with resulting weight loss. Routine exams either annually or biannually are a great way to detect early problems. Your veterinarian can alert you to specific problems and make recommendations to prevent decay and tooth loss. Large dogs generally require teeth cleanings every other year, whereas small dogs will require annual teeth cleanings to maintain optimal oral health. Owners should contact your local veterinarian for an exam and specific recommendations regarding your pet.
Is there anything I can do at home?
Prevention of dental disease is possible by following this four-step process. First, regular dental checkups and exams for your pet is a must. Your veterinarian can detect early disease, fractured teeth, retained teeth and also oral growths or tumors. They will also be able to stage your pet’s periodontal disease.
Secondly, brushing at home on a regular basis helps to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Be sure to use only a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for pets.
Third, feeding your pet dry food and treats mechanically helps keep tartar away. Dental diets are specifically designed to be very hard and require the pet to chew more thus creating an abrasive effect on the teeth that will keep the tartar from adhering.
Lastly, there are many new products designed to help keep tartar and plaque from building up. There is a new vaccine that can be given by your veterinarian that will aid in the prevention of canine periodontits. The vaccine works by decreasing the amount of bacteria in the oral cavity and gums, therefore decreasing underlying bone destruction. It works best with regular teeth cleanings and home care. A new type of sealant is also available that seals the teeth and keeps destructive bacteria from gaining access to the gum line. It is applied to the gum line surface of the teeth on a weekly basis. Your pet would need a dental cleaning before using this product.
February is national pet dental health awareness month and Argyle Veterinary Hospital is offering a special on our routine dental procedures and a bag of samples of some of the products to try at home. Please call our office promptly to set up your dental exam and/or procedure.
Call for February’s Dental Discount Information