Dental health important to pets

Dr. Rebekah Frost

By Dr. Rebekah Frost

Every year at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic, February rolls around and we prepare for one of our busiest surgical months of the whole year, Dental Health Month. Dental health is not only important in people but in your pets as well.

Dental disease can start in pets as soon as their adult teeth emerge at 6 months of age. Signs of dental disease include odorous breath, bleeding gums when brushing or eating, swollen or red gums, build up of tartar, and loose or abscessed teeth. Your pet may exhibit very mild to more severe signs.

Symptoms might include chewing on one side of the mouth, dropping food onto the floor or in the dish when eating, swallowing pieces of food or treats whole, pawing at the mouth or rubbing the mouth on things, and drooling while eating. Excessive tartar on the teeth can harbor dangerous bacteria which can have an effect on all your pet’s organ systems. The most serious effects can be on the heart as bacteria can translocate through the bloodstream and attach to your pet’s heart valves, leading to heart disease.

What can you do as a pet owner?

Start brushing your pet’s teeth at a young age. Most veterinarians carry pet specific tooth paste and toothbrushes.

Start giving your pet dental chews on a weekly basis. Ask your veterinarian what dental chews are best for your pet.

Make sure you schedule your pet for a yearly physical examination. On examination, your veterinarian will be able to tell you if your pet is starting to show signs of dental disease.

Schedule your pet for routine dental cleanings. Based on your veterinarian’s exam, your pet may need at minimum yearly dental cleanings.

What does a dental cleaning entail at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic?

Your pet is first given a sedation and pain injection prior to the procedure. A blood sample is drawn to assure your pet is healthy to undergo the procedure. An intravenous catheter is placed and your pet is given an induction medication to put them in a full plain of anesthesia. A tracheal tube is placed to deliver oxygen and gas to your pet during the dental procedure and to protect the pet’s lungs from water used during the dental cleaning. Your pet’s heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen status, temperature, blood pressures, and carbon dioxide output are all monitored while under anesthesia.

The teeth are first hand scaled then scaled with an ultrasonic dental scaler. Each pet has their own sterilized pack of instruments used for this. Every surface of each tooth is scaled and each tooth is scaled under the gumline. The teeth are then probed and checked for any pockets or looseness to the teeth. Any dental radiographs are taken at this time and diseased teeth are extracted by our veterinarians. The gums are sutured and the remaining teeth are then polished to smooth the surface of the teeth again and slow the accumulation of tartar after the cleaning.

A dental cleaning in your pet, if done correctly, should have all of the above steps performed as this is a very time consuming and meticulous procedure! We have many success stories of dogs and cats that gain a newfound energy after having their teeth cleaned and diseased teeth pulled. Many owners do not realize the chronic pain that their pet has been in until after the dental cleaning. Your pet will be healthier and happier following this procedure!

For the month of February, many veterinarians have promotions and discounts to help owners with scheduling these procedures and to stress the importance of dental health in our pets. Call and set up an appointment today to have your pet’s teeth checked by our veterinarians today and to set up a dental health plan for your pet!

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