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February Is Pet Dental Month by Dr. Nancy Peterson

February 6, 2013
Des Moines Veterinary Clinics Celebrate February as Pet Dental Month Dogs and Cats Have Teeth Too! By Dr Nancy Peterson at Ingersoll Animal Hospital in Des Moines IA. Imagine how your teeth would look and feel if you didn’t brush them daily. Unless you are regularly providing some form of dental care, you are neglecting an important factor in the overall health of your pet. Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease) is the most common disease occurring in pets seen at Des Moines veterinary clinics. The American Veterinary Dental Society estimates that by age 3 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have periodontal disease.

The Cause of Gum Disease is the Same in Cats and Dogs as it is in People

Bacteria, saliva and food combine on the teeth and gums, causing plaque to form. Gum disease is an infection resulting from build-up of dental plaque on the surfaces of the teeth and around the gums. Bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gum tissue when plaque accumulates, which then leads to infection in the bone surrounding the teeth. Hard dental tartar (calculus) consists of calcium salts from saliva deposited on plaque. Tartar starts to form within a few days on a tooth surface that is not kept clean, and provides a rough surface that enhances further plaque accumulation.

Gum Disease Affects the Overall Health and Comfort of our Dogs and Cats

Accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth leads to inflammation and destruction of the tissues that support the teeth. Untreated this can lead to mouth pain as well as the eventual loss of teeth. Perhaps even more devastating is the damage that can be caused to other organs such as the liver, heart, and kidneys secondary to inflammation and infection.

Dogs and Cats Feel Mouth Pain Too

Owners visiting Des Moines veterinary clinics often tell us they haven’t noticed any changes in their animal’s behavior, so they assumed they were fine. Our pets are ultimately descended from wild animals. It does a wild animal no good to advertise that it is sick, or to stop eating because its teeth hurt. Most animals adopt a stoic attitude to chronic pain. If you’ve ever had a chronic toothache, you know the meaning of pain. Studies have shown that dogs and cats pain thresholds are almost identical to humans. Imagine living with a half-dozen toothaches from broken or rotting teeth, exposed nerves, or sores in your mouth. It’s a dog’s life — and a cat’s, too, but it doesn’t have to be. You can liberate your pet from pain.

What Can You do About Your Pet’s Oral or Dental Health?

Look in your pet’s mouth on a regular basis especially looking at the molars or back teeth. You may be surprised at what you see or smell. Schedule a pre-dental exam with the veterinarians at Ingersoll Animal Hospital. We may invite you to take a look inside your pet’s mouth. You may not like what you see: brown and yellow buildup on teeth and sores (called lesions) on the gums. Wellness checkups are the most effective means of detecting problems early and resolving them before permanent damage results. Dental exams are part of your pet’s routine wellness examinations but if you think you see or smell a problem schedule a dental exam as soon as possible, we don’t want our pet’s to have infection and pain.

Dental Treatment and Home Dental Care Are a Routine Part of Good Dental Care

If your pet has dental disease then a dental treatment plan will include a thorough cleaning of all teeth, both above and below the gum line. The only way to properly evaluate and carry out dental procedures in pets is under a general anesthetic. Dental x-rays are an important part of evaluating the health of the mouth and viability of damaged teeth. Any teeth that have extensive disease beyond the point of being salvageable must be extracted. The goal for Des Moines veterinary clinics is routine dental care, not waiting until there is irreversible damage leaving no option but to extract the diseased teeth.

When the Mouth is Clean and Healthy, it is up to You to Keep it that Way

Home Dental Care is a means of preventing dental disease, IT IS NOT A TREATMENT FOR EXISTING DENTAL DISEASE. Brushing the teeth daily is best. Brushing 3 times a week at a minimum is necessary to help change the progress of the disease. There are foods and a few treats that help slow down plaque accumulation but many on the shelves listed as dental treats do not. We encourage you to look at the Veterinary Oral Health Council or VOHC to see a list of products that have been tested and proven to be helpful. Des Moines veterinary clinics recommend routine home care to help keep the mouth healthier and more comfortable but routine professional dental treatments are still a necessary part of your pet’s complete health plan. Remember your pet will start accumulating plaque within hours after a teeth cleaning. Just imagine what your mouth might look like if you went years without brushing or flossing. Following a consistent home-care program, you will greatly improve your pet’s dental health. This will mean fewer professional cleanings, less tooth loss and a happier, healthier pet. However, please remember that there is no substitute for professional veterinary care. We must work as a team to ensure a long and happy life for your pet. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a dental exam please contact the veterinarians and staff at Ingersoll Animal Hospital in Des Moines at 515-274-3555

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