Dental Disease: Silent but Smelly

I would say in half of the consultations I see I have to tell owners that their beloved pet has some type of dental disease. For most of these pets, dental work will end up being recommended.

Each pet has different risk factors involved with dental disease. Small dogs and cats with flat faces (brachycephalic breeds) are more susceptible to dental disease earlier in life than other animals. For example, breeds like Persians, Bulldogs and Pugs tend to have overcrowded mouths. This overcrowding of teeth can cause severe problems and teeth often have to be removed.

If your pet has bad breath, he most likely has some sort of dental disease. If your pet seems to only chew with one side of their mouth, is drooling more, has lost interest in his food or is losing weight, they could also be hiding dental disease. Next time you are playing with your pet, have a look in his mouth. Signs to look for include any redness of the gums, tartar on the teeth or if gums are visibly receded.

A large number of these pets I see do get the recommended dental work done, but many of these pets do not.

The reasons are obvious for owners.

I have far more important things to spend my money on right now than my pet’s teeth.

Only you know what you can and cannot afford, but it is job as veterinarians to advocate for your pet and recommend everything that could keep your pet healthy. They can tell you how important each of these recommendations are to ensure that you are properly informed, but it is up to you to decide if they are a priority to you and your pet. If you are ever not sure, don’t be afraid to speak up and ask your vet to help you prioritize.

I am not going to put my animal under for a general anaesthetic just to have its teeth cleaned.

Our anaesthetics for animals have greatly improved over time, and our monitoring is even better. Animals are placed on intra venous fluids to help maintain their blood pressure, as well as have blood work checked beforehand to see how different organs are functioning before testing them under anaesthetic. The animal is not conscious for the procedure, meaning the procedure is far less traumatizing and stressful for them.

I am worried about my senior animal going under a general anaesthetic.

A large percent of animals that need dental work are seniors, which is another reason why owners are reluctant to put their animals under anaesthesia. It is never a good feeling to send your senior animal in for general anaesthesia. As well as having intra venous fluids during the surgery and doing pre-anaesthetic blood work to uncover pre-existing conditions, our clinic provides intra venous fluids the night before surgery for animals that we are concerned may have underlying issues (such as kidney disease) in an effort to lower their anaesthetic risk. We also change our anaesthetic protocol for senior animals to lower the impact on the liver and other vital organs.

He or she won’t have a good quality of life afterwards with missing teeth.

Dental disease is often very painful. There are circumstances in which ALL of an animal’s teeth would have to be removed. This includes stomatitis in cats and very severe periodontal disease in small dogs. I can say from having to remove all the teeth of some of these cats and dogs that their quality of life is actually quite improved after surgery. They eat right after waking up from surgery, only need pain medication for a few days afterwards, and are much better off in the long run.

Dental health is an important part of your pets overall health. Just like in humans, the bacteria in the mouth circulates in the blood system and will lead to kidney disease and heart disease if untreated.

If you have a young animal or an animal that have just had a dental procedure, there are a few very important things that you should try to do to help reduce dental disease in your pet:

The gold standard for maintaining your pet’s dental health is brushing their teeth at least 3 times a week. For most dogs this is possible, but not always for cats unless they get into the habit at an early age.

There are also very successful diet formulations that can help reduce the amount of tartar build up on your pet’s teeth. It works because they are very big biscuits that your pet has to crunch into to break down the tartar on their teeth. There are also water additives that, if used every day, can reduce a significant number of the tartar on your pet’s teeth.

If you are worried about your pet’s breath or are seeing any signs of dental disease in your pet, you should get it checked at your veterinarian. Coxwell Animal Clinic is providing free dental exams with a technician for all cats & dogs during dental season. Even if there is no dental disease found, we can provide you with many resources that will help keep your pet’s mouth up to its optimal standard. The first step in keeping your pet’s vital organs healthy is realizing the role their mouths play in their overall health.