Dental disease causes your pet’s breath to smell and is the most common health issue diagnosed in adult animals. Unfortunately it is also one of the most overlooked pet health conditions. Common signs of dental disease in a pet include:
- smelly breath (due to germs trapped inside the pet’s mouth)
- loose or discolored teeth
- bleeding gums
- sensitivity around mouth/head
- dropping food
- weight loss/decreased appetite
However many pets with dental problems do not show these obvious signs, even if they are severe. If dental issues go undealt with it can lead to other health consequences for your pet including gum recession, loss of bone around the teeth, bone infections and sinus issues. Bacteria from unhealthy teeth and gums can also enter the blood stream and damage the heart, liver and kidneys. It is also important to consider how painful dental disease can be for animals. Anyone who has had a toothache can imagine what it would feel like to have multiple cavities or even rotting teeth in their mouth! Pain in animals often goes unnoticed because they are good at hiding they are sore and will usually continue to eat.
Just as you go to the dentist regularly for the care of your mouth and teeth your pet should see their veterinarian in regards to theirs. Your pet should have their mouth examined during each yearly wellness exam. Your veterinarian will be able to give you a general idea about your pet’s dental health based on these exams. They will also be able to tell you if dental work is needed and give you homecare recommendations. Sometimes a dental cleaning may be recommended for your pet. During this procedure your pet is anesthetized so the teeth and gums can be examined in great detail. Often dental x-rays are taken at this time to look at the roots of the teeth. From this your veterinarian can tell which teeth are healthy and which are not, often teeth that look normal on regular examination are found to have rotten roots or severe gum disease on closer inspection. The teeth are cleaned with an electronic scaler that removes the tartar from their surface as well as below the gumline. They are then polished with a polishing tool much like the one your dentist uses. Teeth that are severely diseased are removed as they are a source of pain and possible infection. If you get your pet’s teeth cleaned before there is excessive tartar buildup you will prevent them from needing teeth extracted as well as keep the procedure much shorter and easier on the animal. Multiple cleanings may be needed over the years, just as our teeth are cleaned regularly, dental homecare helps spread out the time period between cleanings. Discuss with your veterinarian how you can maintain your pet’s quality of life and help prevent bad breath through regular dental care.