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At Murphy Road Animal Hospital we feel that providing good dental care for your pet is one of the most important steps towards helping your pet live a long, healthy and pain free life.
Here's a statistic you may find shocking: Veterinary experts estimate that up to 80% of dogs and 70% of cats that do not receive proper dental care will show signs of dental disease by the age of three. Dental care is a very important but often overlooked aspect of your pet's overall health and well-being.
Dental disease can cause serious health problems in dogs and cats ranging from tooth loss to systemic illness. That's why it's important to make sure your pet gets regular dental checkups and that you pay attention to its dental care at home, too.
Why Is Dental Care So Important?
Without proper dental care, many pets will, at the least, suffer from bad breath, inflamed or bleeding gums, missing, loose, or broken teeth, and all the discomfort that such problems can cause. At worst, dental problems can contribute to systemic disease and even organ damage.
In addition, many dental problems, such as broken or abscessed teeth, can be extremely painful. Broken teeth are a common problem in dogs that like to chew on hard objects (so make sure your dog has plenty of appropriate chew toys), and dental disease in particular is a common cause of weight loss in older cats.
When Should I Start Worrying About My Pet's Teeth?
Just as in children, proper dental care should begin when your pet is a puppy or kitten. Your pet should have an annual dental examination and cleaning performed by your veterinarian. We will thoroughly evaluate your pet's entire mouth as well as its face, head, and lymph nodes. The exam will be followed by a professional cleaning to remove plaque, stains, and tartar both above and below the gum line. At Murphy Road Animal Hospital we use the most up-to-date ultrasonic dental scalers to clean your pet's teeth more thoroughly and to decrease procedure and anesthesia times. We also cleanse the gums to remove the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
In order for your pet's doctor to perform a proper dental examination and cleaning and to visualize all of your pet's teeth, even those in the back of the mouth, your pet will need to be anesthetized. While there is always a slight risk whenever anesthesia is used, today's anesthetic agents are extremely safe. To enhance safety, we recommend relevant pre-anesthetic testing for your pet to make sure there are no hidden health problems that could be affected by the anesthesia.
Signs of Dental Problems
* Red or bleeding gums
* Stained teeth
* Loose or missing teeth
* Bad breath
* Difficulty eating
See What Our Clients Say About Dental Care
Dental Care at Home
In between your pet's examinations and professional cleanings, you should follow your veterinarian's advice regarding home dental care for your pet, including daily teeth brushing and special dental care diets and treats. From the time your pet is young, you should begin getting it gradually accustomed to having its mouth opened, its teeth touched, and its gums massaged.
Ask us for advice on the best way to brush your pet's teeth, but generally you can start by touching one tooth a day and gradually increasing the number over a period of days, weeks, or even months. Once your pet becomes used to having something in its mouth, you can start brushing its teeth with a special pet toothbrush. (Be sure to use pet toothpaste only. Human toothpaste can be upsetting to pets' stomachs.) If your pet seems afraid of the toothbrush, try using a small piece of gauze wrapped around your finger to start.
If your pet becomes agitated or will otherwise not allow you to touch its mouth or teeth, do not risk being bitten. Contact us for advice. You may simply need to schedule your pet for more frequent dental examinations and professional cleanings.
Watch this short video to learn how to brush your pet's teeth.
The Bottom Line
Oral disease is one of the biggest health problems diagnosed in dogs and cats today, so it is essential for owners to provide pets with good dental care, both professionally and at home. The fact is that your furry friend will live longer and be healthier if its teeth are properly cared for at all stages of life.
Please do not hesitate to contact a member of our compassionate health care team if you have any questions at all about any aspect of your pet's health.