The Importance of Dental Care in Companion Animals

Good dental hygiene is instrumental in the overall health and quality of life in our cats and dogs. Periodontal disease is considered a leading health concern in companion animals with the primary cause being bacterial plaque. Plaque develops when bacteria and food particles get lodged in the teeth. If not removed the plaque (a soft milky film) hardens to form tartar. When both plaque and tartar build up around a tooth it forces bacteria below the gumline where bacteria begin to attack the tissue surrounding the tooth. The resulting inflammation and infection of some or all of the teeth support structures is called periodontal disease. The impact of oral disease on the overall health of our pets varies. Guaranteed, left untreated, periodontal disease will progress and lead to a variety of local and systemic complications detrimental to our pets and will directly impact the animals quality of life as well as reduce life expectancy. Bad breath, discomfort or pain when eating, and tooth loss are results at a local level. More severe complications occur when bacteria from the mouth moves through the blood stream, directly affecting the heart, liver, lungs and kidneys. Not only is periodontal disease avoidable the good news is it's entirely treatable. It is important to have your veterinarian perform a dental exam to determine if your pet is suffering from or at immediate risk of developing periodontal disease. A home dental routine of brushing your dog or cat's teeth is highly recommended. Introducing a dental hygiene regiment when the pet is a puppy or kitten is easiest however, with patience and persistence older animals can be conditioned to accept routine brushing of their teeth. Specially designed tooth brushes and paste products help with brushing needs. As well there are dental health products available at Sissiboo Veterinary Services that assist in promoting better oral health. One product, an oral hygiene solution, is added to the pets drinking water and acts as a protective shield on the teeth and gums. Chew toys provide some benefit by helping to massage the gums however a dog would have to chew approximately 30 minutes daily for maximum tooth scraping results. As for dental treats, not all are created equal. Look for products that have veterinary oral health council approval. While chew toys and treats may provide some benefit to controlling plaque and tartar build up there is no substitute for regular brushing and professional care; ie scaling and polishing dentistry. Brushing and dental chews will increase the time between cleanings but unfortunately not be able to eliminate veterinary dental care entirely.

Written by Kelly Fitzpatrick-Stewart


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