Tip of the Month

12/25/2010 Pearly Whites Dental Health for Pets

With our pets living longer lives due to better medical treatments, diagnostic tools and advanced nutrition, pets are heather and happier than ever. But with these longer lives, more and more cases of dental disease have been arising. In fact, most of the severe medical problems diagnosed in veterinary hospitals are dental problems. It is as important for our pets to have good dental health as it is for us.

Puppies have 28 baby teeth that will erupt at about 4 weeks of age and will have 42 adult teeth around 4 months of age. Kittens have 26 baby teeth at around three weeks and will have 30 adult teeth around three to four months of age.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease with periodontal disease the most common problem in dogs, especially the smaller breeds. Another common problem is broken teeth, especially with outdoor dogs and cats. This can be caused by aggressive chewing on something hard and many times its due to a commercially available chew toy. About 28 percent of cats can develop painful lesions during their lifetime.

Just like their human counterparts, pets get plaque, tartar buildup and periodontal disease.
Pets rarely get cavities but they are prone to tartar build-up and gum disease. Food and bacteria collect along the gum line which forms plaque. If the plaque is not removed, it combines with the minerals in saliva which creates tartar (or calculus) within 3-5 days after it forms. Gingivitis is the tartar that causes the gums to become inflamed and looks like reddening of the gums next to the teeth. This contributes to bad breath with red and inflamed gums. You can learn more about these signs from your local veterinary assistant.

If the tartar is not removed, it causes a build up under the gums. This build up can cause pockets around the teeth which will cause bacteria to build up. This damage is usually irreversible, can cause teeth to fall out, bone loss and or infection. This condition is called periodontal disease and the build up of bacteria may enter the bloodstream. This in turn can cause endocarditis or infections of the heart valves or even infect the kidneys.
With proper care from your veterinarian, the disease can be slowed or stopped.

With the advent of pet dentistry becoming more common and with newer and more sophisticated procedures, our pets can live longer and healthier lives. There are more and more veterinary and veterinary assistant schools that specialize in pet dental health. Root canals, crowns and even braces are becoming more of the norm.

The old days of just pulling teeth are becoming a thing of the past with new products being developed for veterinarians and their owners to provide the best care for our pets.


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