Imagine how your mouth would feel if you didn’t brush your teeth for a full year. Imagine how it would feel after five or ten years! You might expect significant pain, loose or missing teeth and halitosis from odor-producing bacteria. You probably cringe at the thought of chronic infection in your own mouth but may not realize how important dental hygiene is for your pets.
Many people are just beginning to learn about pet dentistry. If you are one of them, your pet might already have gum disease. Can you see any redness or swelling of the gums? Does his breath ever smell bad? Does she have any brown plaque or tartar? These could be signs of periodontal disease, which is caused by bacteria and compromises health in multiple ways.
As dogs and cats age, periodontal disease becomes very common and resulting pain diminishes quality of life. Oral infection can increase the risk of heart, kidney and liver disease and shorten an animal’s lifespan. A common misconception is that animals do not have painful mouths if they are still eating. The truth is that animals are very good at hiding pain. Most pet owners will never see signs of dental and gum disease until it is very severe. The good news is that many owners report an improvement in their pet’s energy level and playfulness following professional dental care.
You can slow the progression of gum disease by brushing your pet’s teeth, offering safe toys and treats for daily chewing, feeding high quality pet food and taking your pets to a veterinarian who will conduct a thorough oral exam. It is best to start caring for pets’ teeth when they are very young but it is never too late! Advanced disease may require anesthesia and possibly even oral surgery to achieve wellness. This concept frightens many families, as they may have had negative experiences with dental care. It is essential to have a relationship with a veterinarian you trust who can answer your questions and allay your fears. The best dental care plan is always a team effort. – Written by: Dr. Elizabeth Chosa