Pet dental health is a hot topic in the veterinary world—and for good reason. Shockingly, by age 3, most dogs and cats have some evidence of dental disease, which can be characterized by plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and other abnormalities. But, with seemingly infinite resources regarding pet care, how do you know what information is good information? When it comes to pet oral health, misconceptions abound—and we’ve heard them all. Following are some common assumptions we’ve come across, and the reasons they are false.
Myth #1: You don’t need to brush your pet’s teeth to keep them clean
Unfortunately, people who brush their pet’s teeth are still in the minority. Many pet owners find the task too cumbersome or downright impossible, depending on their pet’s amenability. Despite this, toothbrushing remains the single-most beneficial at-home dental hygiene routine that owners can do for their pets. By mechanically removing plaque and debris, and with the help of a veterinary enzymatic toothpaste, you can help your pet’s teeth stay clean and, better yet, keep harmful dental diseases at bay. Since dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in pets, the sooner you institute a toothbrushing routine at home, the better. The variety of other beneficial pet dental products that are available should be used in combination with a toothbrushing routine for optimal results in most pets.
Myth #2: Bad breath is normal in pets
You may think your pet’s less-than-stellar mouth odor comes with the territory of being a dog or cat. While many of us become accustomed to our pet’s bad breath, it’s certainly not normal. Consider your own breath and oral hygiene—if you know the “morning breath” smell after a single night’s rest, imagine how your breath would smell after months, or years, without proper oral care. This is the case for many pets—but it doesn’t have to be! With guidance from Dr. K’s veterinary team, and the right tools, your pet can be on their way to a fresh, healthy mouth.
Myth #3: Dental health isn’t related to overall health
Nothing could be further from the truth. The longer dental disease is allowed to progress, the greater the risk that dangerous bacteria will enter your pet’s bloodstream by way of bleeding gums, periodontal pockets, or other dental abnormalities. This can potentially lead to harmful effects on the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other crucial organs without prompt treatment. As part of your pet’s annual or semi-annual wellness examination, Dr. K will examine your pet’s oral cavity for disease signs and provide recommendations for care. For most pets, this will involve an at-home oral hygiene routine tailored to your pet, along with suggestions for professional, anesthetic cleaning or treatment.
Myth #4: Pets don’t need anesthesia to clean their teeth
While a few easy-going pets will tolerate tooth scaling or polishing while wide awake, non-anesthetized veterinary dental procedures do not allow for the thorough cleaning that most pets routinely need. In pets, most dental disease hides beneath the sensitive gum line. A thorough dental cleaning and examination will involve probing along the teeth for pockets and other abnormalities, which can be uncomfortable and, not surprisingly, most pets will not tolerate these procedures while awake. Also, performing these tasks on awake patients poses safety hazards to both your pet and the veterinary team. Therefore, general anesthesia is necessary for your pet to receive the thorough dental care they deserve. You do not need to worry, because our veterinary team will take all the necessary precautions before the procedure to ensure your pet is healthy enough to receive anesthesia.
Myth #5: If my pet still eats, their teeth can’t be too bad
Like all living creatures, our pets must eat to survive. Many pets with painful, debilitating dental disease will continue to eat their food normally, leaving many pet owners questioning whether their furry friends really have any oral problems. Forgetting that our pets cannot always communicate when or where something hurts is easily done—and gauging their appetite may be helpful in some pets, but not for others. It’s best not to use your pet’s willingness to eat as a sole benchmark of their dental health. Let us teach you how to examine your pet’s mouth for problems at home, and to know when it’s time for a professional cleaning.
Understanding your pet’s dental health and its important role in their overall well-being is crucial, but not always easy. Let Dr. K’s Pet Clinic help. Schedule a consultation at our hospital for a thorough evaluation and recommendations for your individual pet.