THE DANGER IN DENTAL DISEASE:
Dental disease is a very common problem in dogs and cats. While cats can develop "cervical neck lesions" which are similar to cavities in peoples, both dogs and cats primary problem is tartar (calculus) buildup, and resulting periodontal disease. This can eventually result in the presence of pus filled pockets along the gums, and even tooth root abscesses.
Veterinarians can often detect periodontal disease during a physical examination, but often the full extent of the dental disease cannot be determined until the dog or cat has been placed under general anesthesia.
A thorough dental cleaning, along with appropriate home care (see below), can control periodontal disease. A thorough cleaning can only be performed while a pet is anesthetized, so that all areas of the tooth can be properly cleaned and polished, and pockets, if present, can be treated appropriately. Any loose infected teeth that are found also need to be extracted during the procedure.
It is extremely important to realize that, just as in people, dental disease affects not just the mouth, but the rest of the body as well. The pockets mentioned above contain bacteria. As a dog or cat chews, these bacteria are released into the bloodstream, where they travel to internal organs like the heart, kidneys, and liver. Periodontal disease is thus a leading cause of chronic kidney disease, and also endocarditis (infection of the lining of the heart and heart valves) which can lead to congestive heart failure.
ORAL HOME CARE:
There are a number of steps that can be taken in order to minimize plaque buildup on teeth, and the eventual formation of calculus leading to periodontal disease.
#1) Tooth brushing
When performed regularly and properly, this is the most effective thing you can do to prevent dental disease in your dog or cat. Clients often ask me how often this needs to be done. If a pet has periodontal disease, the teeth should be brushed daily. Three times each week is the minimum acceptable frequency for patients with reasonably good oral health. We can let you know during your pet's annual or biannual examination.
Tooth brushing is best accomplished when started at a young age. Beginning with a finger brush is often the easiest way to begin. Always use a toothpaste especially made for dogs and cats, as some human toothpastes contain detergents or fluoride that may cause GI upset or fluorosis if swallowed. And lastly, provide positive reinforcement with the use of treats, food, or affection.
Here at Aurora Pet Hospital, we carry a variety of high quality products that can be used to brush a dog or cats teeth. We will be happy to go over them with you. Please feel free to ask at your next visit here.
#2) Enzymatic Chews and Dental Treats:
Numerous products are available that purport to decrease dental disease in dogs and cats. We caution you however, that far too many of these are ineffective in doing what they claim to do. We only recommend and carry products that carry the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval. This seal is proof that such products have undergone rigorous testing and actually do what they claim to do; help to prevent dental disease in dogs and cats. And yes, we do have fish flavored dental chews for our feline patients!!
#3) Dental Diets
There a number of dry dog and cat foods available, which, due to their texture and shape, produce a gentle abrasive effect on the teeth during chewing. We carry a Veterinary Diet made by Royal Canin here at Aurora Pet Hospital, which also has an ingredient that binds to salivary calcium, making it unavailable for the formation of calculus, as well as a nutrient that helps reduce plaque buildup. We are always ready and willing to discuss and recommend a high quality food for your pet, all you need to do is ask.
#4) Barrier Sealants
Two barrier sealants are currently available for use in dogs and cats. We can not only apply OraVet after a dental procedure, but can send your dog or cat home with a plaque prevention gel kit as well. These sealants have the VOHC seal of approval, but are only useful after the teeth have been professionally cleaned and polished.
#5) Water Additives
There are numerous products available, which claim to prevent, reduce, or even eliminate dental calculus once it has formed. I strongly caution you that only one that I am aware of has gained the VOHC seal of approval. Most do little if anything do perform as claimed.
In closing, I wish to again emphasize the importance of tooth brushing in keeping your pets teeth clean. Although numerous other options, as listed above, are available to aid in this endeavor, tooth brushing remains the standard of care.