submitted by Matthew Klein, VMD, owner, Buck Road Animal Hospital
It is common for dogs and cats to suffer quietly with dental disease that goes unnoticed. Dogs and cats rarely stop eating from dental pain and they have no way of telling us when their mouths hurt.
Unfortunately, many owners never look inside their pet’s mouth and ignore their teeth for much too long. Frequently owners will bring their pets to have their mouths assessed by a veterinarian when their breath becomes unbearable.
Bad breath is the consequence of oral disease but far from the most important aspect. Gingival (gum) recession, bone loss and oral infections are only the local problems associated with dental disease.
Systemically the heart, kidney and liver are affected to a great extent as well. What vets typically say to their clients is “As the mouth goes, the heart and body go too.”
Luckily there is a lot we can do to maintain a healthy mouth and body. Ideally, we are all brushing our pet’s teeth as often as reasonably possible.
In addition to at-home care, all dogs and cats can benefit from frequent anesthetized dental exams where the teeth can be cleaned and assessed visually and via x-rays.
Different breeds have different needs. Small dogs like Yorkies and mini-poodles can benefit from a yearly cleaning and assessment while some larger breeds like Labradors may be able to go two to three years between treatments.
Veterinarians with proper training can considerably improve their patient’s lives.
Often tooth extractions are necessary but it is better to have fewer teeth in a healthy mouth than more teeth in an unhealthy mouth. In general, the worse the oral disease, the more dramatic the improvement is following thorough dental care.
Owners will often say their pets that seemed perpetually grumpy become friendlier and more lovable. And yes…we can typically fix the bad breath as well!