Pet Pointers February

posted on Friday, June 26, 2015 in From the Mailbox of Dr. M

The holidays were great this year, especially given the quantity of amazing cookies and candies consumed. On the flip side, all those sweets remind me that it’s about time to visit the dentist. But what about my pet’s teeth? February is National Dental Month, helping us to emphasize that our pets’ dental health plays a large part on their overall wellbeing. The majority of cats and dogs that I see have some degree of dental disease, ranging from a little tartar to a mouth painful enough that they do not want to eat. The culprit? Lots of bacteria setting up camp (or in some cases, they’ve been camping for years), damaging enamel, the gums, and the ligaments that hold the teeth in place. Not only that, the bacteria can even access the bloodstream and affect the vital organs, making your pet feel sick.

Like us, the best cure for this disease is prevention; however, our pets do not have thumbs that allow them to take care of their teeth on their own. So how can we help them out? Thankfully there are several options:

Professional Dental Cleanings

Some of us are great about scheduling our own dental visits. But, if we’re not, at least we tend to be pretty good about brushing our own teeth. But what if we didn’t even do that? No wonder some of our pets’breath smell worse than… well… we won’t even go there. Getting their teeth scaled and polished when tarta accumulates is the quickest and best way to a healthy mouth. For some, this may need to happen yearly. Others may only need a cleaning or two in their lifetime. And just to be clear - a thorough oral cleaning does require general anesthesia (making the cost a bit higher than a few toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste). It would be great if our patients could just say ‘Ahhhh.’ Unfortunately though, if we tried to do dental cleanings with our patients fully awake, we’d have a lot fewer functioning fingers.

Quality Foods

Like us, what our dogs and cats eat can support or hinder their dental health. Feeding a high quality dry diet, supplying clean water at all times, and avoiding table scraps are a great first step. There are even specialized diets that are formulated to clean your pets’ teeth while they eat and may be a great option for some pets.

Dental Products

There are so many products out there that claim to be good for your cat or dog’s dental health. But do they really work? Where do we start? The absolute best thing for your pet would be daily brushing with a pet-safe enzymatic toothpaste. However, if this seems like a huge undertaking, there are other great options. The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) provides a list of products that meet pre-set standards of reducing plaque and tartar accumulation. Those products range from oral gels to water additives and dental chews, and one of those is bound to be accepted by even the most finicky pet.

The bottom line - our pets’ oral hygiene plays a big role in their overall health. If we don’t want our pets to suffer from the effects of dental disease, we have to take steps to treat their current issues and prevent those that may occur in the future. From dental cleanings to food and other products, you and your veterinarian can work together to figure out what may be the best option for your pet.

As always, if you have any questions about dental health or other veterinary needs, please do not hesitate to give AMVC a call at 712-563-4201. Check back next month for another installment of Pet Pointers from Dr. G.