Washtenaw Veterinary Hospital
February is National Pet Dental Health Month
Dental health is a very important part of your pet's overall health and dental disease can cause many other health issues. Veterinary dentistry may include cleaning, x-rays, extraction, and polishing of your pet's teeth and should be done by a veterinarian or a board certified veterinary dentist. A pet dental cleaning includes scaling to remove plaque, followed by polishing and is very similar to the cleaning a human would receive at their regular dentist appointments.
The most common kind of dental disease in cats and dogs is periodontal disease, which occurs below the gum line where you can't see it. Plaque and tartar below the gum line allow bacteria to flourish in the area, damaging the tissues connecting the teeth to the jaw bone. 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some amount of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old. This is why it's important to have their teeth examined by a veterinarian at least once a year. Signs of a dental problem include discoloration of teeth, bad breath, drooling, sensitivity around the mouth, loose or broken teeth, decreased appetite, and dropping food while eating. Regular brushing is the most effective way to care for your pet's teeth between professional dental cleanings. We recommend focusing on the outside of the teeth and using a soft bristled tooth brush and pet-safe tooth paste. Daily brushing is ideal but not always realistic for everyone. So even if you're only able to brush your pet's teeth 3 times a week, that's a great start!
Many pet owners are most concerned with the anesthesia required for a professional dental cleaning. There are inherent risks with any anesthetic procedure, which is why your veterinarian completely evaluates your pet and recommends pre-surgical lab work prior to a dental cleaning. This gives them a full picture of your animal's health and helps the vet assess whether or not they are a good candidate for general anesthesia. Anesthesia allows the veterinarian to thoroughly evaluate each tooth. They are also able to take dental x-rays, which is important since the majority of dental disease in pets occurs below the gum line. If a problem is identified, treatment can be provided on the spot since the patient is already resting comfortably with anesthesia. Nearly all veterinarians agree that cleaning a companion animal's teeth without anesthesia is considered below the standard of care. Non-anesthetic dental cleanings are considered cruel because the stress that the pet experiences is so high.
Check out the infographic below for some quick feline dental health facts and be sure to read more about the dental special that WVH offers year round!