Bad breath is one of the major symptoms of dental disease in our canine and feline companions. A clean mouth should have very little odor. Because our pet’s teeth are so important, the American Veterinary Medical Association sponsors every February as Pet Dental Health Month.
Just like us, our pets are prone to plaque and tartar build up on their teeth, leading to inflamed gums (gingivitis), gum erosion, periodontitis and even in some cases – teeth falling out or becoming abscessed. All of these problems require veterinary intervention, so it’s important to know the signs of a pet with dental disease:
- Bad/foul smelling breath
- Red/swollen gums and brown teeth
- Teeth with a thick “crust” on them – this is tartar
- Bleeding from the mouth, or blood found on chew toys
- Frequent pawing at the mouth/face
- Reluctance to eat hard food/kibble/treats – they may put them in their mouths and then spit them out.
- Excessive drooling (especially in cats)
The best way to prevent dental disease is with prevention that you can do at home. There are a few ways to do this:
- Water additives, such as Healthy Mouth that you can add to your pet’s water to prevent plaque buildup
- Dental diets and chews that prevent plaque and tartar build up
- Brushing your pets teeth
By far, the most effective of these options is brushing your pet’s teeth. Water additives will prevent plaque build up, but will not remove plaque. Dental diets do remove plaque, but not all of the teeth are used when chewing. Brushing your pet’s teeth provides the abrasiveness necessary to remove dental plaque and special pet safe toothpaste helps to prevent more buildup. However, none of these options will remove existing buildups of tartar or calculus.
Tartar happens when plaque builds up and hardens. Calculus is a large buildup of tartar and can’t be removed with special tools used in dental cleanings.
If your pet is over the age of 2-3 years old and has never had a brushing, or dental care, chances are that they have some tartar buildup.
If your pet has dental tartar/calculus, loose teeth, or gingivitis, your veterinarian may suggest doing a dental cleaning, or as we call it: A Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT).
A COHAT consists of:
- A complete dental cleaning by hand scaling and using an ultrasonic scaler to clean your pet’s teeth and get rid of plaque and tartar. We clean both above and below the gumline, which is important in eliminating bad bacteria in the mouth.
- Once the teeth are clean, we use a dental probe, just like those used in human dental checkups, to check the pocket depths around teeth for any abnormalities or deep pockets that may indicate a loose tooth or various stages of dental disease. Any abnormalities found are then recorded on a dental chart. All of this information is also stored on your pet’s file in hospital so we can keep an eye on any dental problems or abnormalities at your pet’s next exam.
- After charting is done, we polish all of the teeth to eliminate and literally polish out any scuffs caused by the cleaning.
- If any problems are found, the next step is to take dental x-rays of the teeth.
- Teeth are like icebergs; you only see the surface. A pet’s tooth actually extends much further below the gumline than what we see in their mouth.
- Approximately 70% of the tooth is under the gum!
- Once the X-rays are done, the veterinarian will extract any problem teeth and close the pocket left behind.
A COHAT takes place under general anesthesia. During the entire procedure, one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVTs) will be monitoring your pet’s vital signs to ensure that they are safe and not feeling any pain.
Before and after a COHAT:
If dental home care has not been a part of your regular routine at home, the best time to start is after your pet’s teeth have been cleaned in order to prevent the plaque and tartar from building up again.
Since pet dental health is so important to us, and in honor of Pet Dental Health Month, Kew Beach Veterinary Hospital has added an extra surgical day to our schedule just for COHATs. As well, we are also covering the fees for your pet’s pre-anesthetic blood work and offering a free bag of Purina Veterinary Diet’s Dental Health Diet with all COHATs booked.
Please contact us today to book an appointment with one of our Registered Veterinary Technicians for a complimentary Dental Health Assessment so we can assess your pet’s teeth and make a plan for caring for their dental health.
Resources and information for Pet Dental Health Month (Provided by the AVMA):
- Dental Health: How to Brush Your Pet’s Teeth video
- Periodontal Disease video
- National Pet Dental Health Month webpage
- AVMA Animal Tracks podcast about the importance of dental health for our pets
- A list of Veterinary Oral Health Council approved products
- The American Veterinary Dental College home care tips for cats and dogs