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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dental Care For Your Pets

When To Start Dental Care.

With the help of your Veterinarian, be on the lookout for retained deciduous teeth (baby teeth that should have come out) and malocclusion (bad bite) problems. The earlier you catch the problem,  the better. Your Veterinarian can teach you how to care for your pet's teeth and gums early on.
Deciding If Your Pet Has A Problem

Bad breath is often a first indicator of dental disease. Gently lift the lips and check for tartar, inflamed gums, or missing/broken teeth. Cats may exhibit increased drooling. Both cats and dogs can exhibit reluctance to eat or play with toys, "chattering" of the teeth when trying to eat, lethargy, bleeding gums, eroded teeth, and failing to groom (cats). Dental disease progresses in stages -- if caught early, you can prevent further damage and save as many teeth as possible.
The Rest of the Body Is Affected
Infected gums and teeth aren't just a problem in the mouth -- the heart, kidneys, intestinal tract, and joints may also be infected. The tartar and any infected areas of the mouth contain a multitude of bacteria than can 'seed' to other parts of the body. For example, a bladder infection can start through transmission from teeth to kidneys and bladder. With regular dental care, you can prevent some of these more serious side effects.
Think About Cleaning at Three Years of Age
If your pet is an adult over 3 years of age, it would be wise to schedule a dental check up with your Veterinarian. If a dental cleaning is necessary, it is advisable to do pre-anesthesia blood work to make sure your pet does not have any underlying problems.

                                    
                                                Canine tooth with tartar
Canine tooth after cleaning
The Dental Cleaning       
As mentioned above, pre-dental blood work is recommended. This is a check on the overall health of the pet to make sure that liver, kidney, and blood counts are within normal ranges and to reduce any risks possible prior to the anesthesia. Many pets with bad teeth will be put on an antibiotic a few days prior to the dental to calm the infection and reduce possibility of complications.

                                          
Your pet will be fasted from the evening before for the anesthesia. The dental itself is similar to a human dental cleaning - tartar removal, checking for cavities, gingival (gum) pockets, loose teeth, any growths on the gums or palate, removal of diseased teeth, and finally, polishing. The polishing is to smooth the tooth after tartar removal, as the tartar pits the tooth. A smooth tooth will not encourage tartar formation as easily as a roughened tooth.
Trouble Signs to Look for In Your Pet
Watch for the following signs:

·         Bad breath
·         Reluctance to chew / crying out when chewing
·         Increased salivation
·         Red and/or puffy gums
·         Bleeding gums
·         Tartar / Calculus (hard coating on teeth that is usually brown or yellow; results from plaque build-up)
·         Missing and/or loose teeth
Preventing Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats
There are several things you can do to help keep your pet's teeth in good shape. Start a dental care routine as early as possible in your dog’s life so he get used to the feeling of having his teeth brushed and inspected. Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth that typically fall out by about six months of age. By this time, your dog should be getting his teeth brushed regularly. If you decide to brush your dog’s teeth, here are some important tips to keep in mind:

1.    NEVER brush your dog’s teeth with human toothpaste – it can make your dog sick! Use special enzymatic toothpaste made especially for dogs. The same goes for oral rinses.
2.    Plaque begins to turn into tartar / calculus within 24-48 hours, so daily brushing is recommended. Work your dog’s tooth brushing into your own routine – consider brushing his teeth around the same time you do yours so it will be easier to remember.
3.    Use a “finger brush” or special long toothbrush designed for use on dogs. When starting out with brushing the teeth, the finger brush can help ease your dog into it, as these do not feel as awkward as hard brushes.
4.    Before you begin, ask your veterinarian to show you some techniques to make tooth brushing easier on you and your dog.
If you are not able to brush your dog’s teeth, there are other options. Consider using oral rinses made especially for dogs. You can also purchase special prescription dental diets like Hill’s T/D. Avoid real bones – not only can they lead to gastrointestinal upset, they may also cause tooth fractures.
MOST OF ALL: 
Make sure you keep up with vet exams. From time to time, a professional dental cleaning may be recommended. This requires general anesthesia. During the procedure, your dog’s teeth and gums will be examined closely for problems. The teeth will then be scaled and polished. If dental problems are noted, tooth extractions could become necessary. Alternatively, you may be referred to a veterinary dentist for specialty procedures. Some dogs need dental cleanings one or more times per year, while others can go longer. Be certain to follow your vet’s recommendations. And remember, what you do at home can really make all the difference.

The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at http://www.providencevet.com/.