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Southwest Animal Clinic

Dental Care for Your Dogs

Brown Dog Biting an Orange Toothbrush

March 29, 2020

Finally an article you can sink your teeth in to.

  • What can I do about my dog’s breath? 

  • Why does my cat drool?

  • Is there really any reason to brush my pet’s teeth?  

  • Why do “cleaning” my pet’s teeth cost more than going to my own dentist? 

These are some of the more common questions we answer concerning pet’s teeth and periodontal disease.  Here are some facts:

  • The teeth are constantly bombarded by bacteria that would love to colonize under the gumline or along the gumline margin.

  • These germs can enter the bloodstream and cause disease in the liver, heart and kidneys.

  • 85% of dogs and 70% of cats over 3 years of age suffer from dental problems.

  •  A regular examination of your pet’s mouth will identify plaque problems before they get bad.

  • Brushing the teeth is the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease.

There are four stages of dental disease in animals from early gingivitis to advanced periodontitis. These conditions range from redness along the gumline to pustular discharge with deep pockets of infection and severe bone loss. 

The first signs of periodontal disease are increasingly foul-smelling breath (similar to my Uncle Pete at Thanksgiving) from the bacteria breaking down food proteins and, releasing volatile sulphur compounds, excessive drooling and difficulty eating due to inflamed and painful gums.

The more serious effects of advanced periodontal disease are the loosening of the teeth because of the destruction of the periodontal ligament that holds the teeth in place and the secondary infections that occur in the liver, kidneys, and heart because of the bacteria entering the bloodstream.

When you see any of these signs and symptoms you should have your veterinarian examine your pet and set up a time for a dental prophylaxis. The procedure usually involves:

  • General physical exam and pre-op lab work

  • Oral examination under general anesthesia

  • Scaling under the gumline

  • Polishing the teeth

  • Irrigation of infected pockets – antibiotic injection

  • Post cleaning exam and dental charting

  • Home care instructions

The cost can be significant because of the pre-op blood work, general anesthesia, and stage of periodontal disease, however, the dental procedure will prolong your pet’s life.

The best way to avoid this expense is to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease by brushing your pet’s teeth and feeding a diet that is formulated to promote oral and dental health. Daily brushing of the teeth is the most effective of fighting against dental plaque. Ask your veterinarian about the different kinds of toothpaste available and brushing techniques. Feeding a “dental” diet like Science Diet’s T/D or Royal Canin’s DD will not only satisfy the animal’s nutritional needs but will help achieve good oral and dental hygiene.

Hey – it could be worse.  At least we are not asking you to floss.