Stinky breath-that is often what people think of first about pet dental problems, but the roots (pardon the pun) go much deeper than that. It is estimated by the American Veterinary Dental Society that up to 80% of older dogs and 70% of older cats have dental disease. We perform an awake oral exam on every pet that will tolerate it as part of the physical exam process.
Dental problems for your pet can start with plaque—because they can’t brush it away, it forms tartar. Tartar is the hard gritty material that can push up under your pet’s gumline. That leads to an opening for bacterial infection in the gums (gingivitis) and the bone (periodontitis). Both of these can lead to “stinky breath” which may be the first sign that you see of the problem. Other signs of oral disease may include red and swollen gums, changes in their eating habits, weight loss, and pawing at the face. Dental pain can be difficult to recognize, and it can have a significant impact on your pet’s well being. A pet with severe dental pain may not want you to check their mouth which makes it even harder to see what is going on. However, these bacterial infections can cause serious problems for your pet if they are left untreated. The infection may get into the bloodstream and cause complications with liver and kidney function as well as heart and lung issues. Bacterial infection may also eat away at the bone around the tooth leading to problems with the tooth falling out and disease in the jaw.
We can help by showing you how to do some basic dental care at home. Regular assessment of the mouth at your pet’s physical exam will allow us to keep a close watch on their level of plaque and tartar, and we can also help with dietary modifications that keep your pet’s mouth healthier. Should your pet need a dental cleaning or a more thorough assessment of individual tooth structure, we will complete these processes while your pet is under anesthesia. This allows us to do a complete and thorough job while minimizing patient fear and discomfort. A pet is unable to sit with its mouth open while a complete exam and cleaning is done. While we recognize that many people are concerned about anesthesia, we take many steps to minimize the risk for our patients. We are happy to discuss this with you at any time. Please feel free to ask us at any time for ideas to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.