Pets need regular dental care just like people do. Though dogs and cats rarely get cavities, they can get other types of dental disease. In fact, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three.
A study that was conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association indicated that “approximately two-thirds of pet owners do not provide the dental care that is recommended as essential by veterinarians.” Many pet owners do not provide adequate dental care for their dogs and cats simply because they don’t know how.
Why Worry About Your Dog or Cat’s Oral Health?
Dogs and cats with dental disease often suffer severe pain as a result of bad teeth. If you’ve ever suffered a tooth ache yourself, you know what that feels like. It can affect your pet’s appetite and overall quality of life.
Even worse, dental disease can have far-reaching effects on your pet’s body, causing heart and kidney disease in addition to pain and suffering.
Proper oral health care ensures that your pet’s mouth and teeth will remain healthy. Adequate dental care requires both at-home care and veterinary care for your pet.
Caring for Your Dog or Cat’s Teeth at Home
Brushing our pet’s teeth is the most effective means of keeping his mouth healthy. Though many owners balk at the thought of brushing their dog or cat’s teeth, most pets can be taught to readily accept tooth brushing with a little time and patience. This video, provided by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), will show you how to teach your dog or cat to let you brush his teeth.
Though brushing is the “gold standard” in dental care for pets, there are other dentifrices that can help keep your pet’s mouth healthy as well. These include chews, toys, specialized feeds, and water additives. Discuss the options with your veterinarian to find the best alternative for your pet.
Veterinary Dental Health Care
Just as you need to go to the dentist periodically to have your teeth cleaned and examined, your pet needs veterinary dental care. The difference is that your pet will need to be anesthetized to properly clean his teeth and have his mouth evaluated.
Your veterinarian has specialized tools, very similar to those used by your dentist, to clean your pet’s teeth both above and below the gumline. This simply cannot be done properly while your pet is awake. Don’t be fooled by those who offer anesthesia-free dental cleaning for your pet. Their cleaning is cosmetic only because only the visible surfaces of your pet’s teeth can be cleaned and the area below the gumline, where dental disease begins, is neglected.
While your pet is anesthetized, your veterinarian will also be able to perform a full examination of your pet’s mouth and teeth. This will often involve radiographs (x-rays) of the individual teeth. Once the examination is complete, your veterinarian will discuss with you any abnormal findings and create a treatment plan to deal with the abnormalities.