I had discussed this very important topic in a previous "blog" on this website, but wanted to address dental disease again, in a slightly different format.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has, for a number of years, proclaimed February as: "Dental Health Month" for dogs and cats. Here at Aurora Pet Hospital however, each and every day is "Dental Health Day". I say this because we well recognize that periodontal disease is one of the most common conditions we see in our feline and canine patients, and it can be very detrimental to their long-term health. Allow me to explain.
It is known that about 85% of pets greater than 4 years of age have some degree of dental disease. While dogs and cats do not get "cavities" as we humans do, they do too often suffer from disorders of the periodontium, the structures that support the teeth.
How does this come about you may ask? Periodontal disease begins with the formation of plaque along the gum line. It is that sticky coating made up of food particles and bacteria that we can feel on our teeth if we have not brushed them in a day or so. If the plaque is not removed, minerals will be deposited in it, and eventually hard calculus (tartar) forms. This material irritates the adjacent gum tissues, and allows bacteria to grow. These bacteria release substances that over time dissolve the structures that support the tooth, resulting in periodontal disease. As the process continues, pockets containing pus form. These eventually lead to exposure of the tooth root. If left untreated, abscesses will form which are very painful, as anyone who has ever had an abscessed tooth may attest to. In the final stage, the tooth loosens and falls out.
How does one know if their pet has periodontal disease? During the annual examination, Dr. Meisner or I will lift your pet's lip and examine the teeth. We look for red or swollen gums, and of course the presence of tartar on them. Occasionally a dog or cat will be presented to us with "bad breath" (halitosis). By that time however, periodontal is usually quite advanced. Often we are unable to evaluate the full extent of the problem until a pet is placed under general anesthesia, and each individual tooth evaluated.
If discovered at an early stage, a professional cleaning and follow-up home-care plan are all that is necessary to restore a dog or cat to good oral health. Once deep pockets form under the gums however, it may be difficult to maintain good oral health without daily at-home care and periodic professional cleanings.
A professional dental cleaning, followed by a recommended home care program, can help to control periodontal disease in your pet. The cleaning is performed by a licensed Veterinary Technician highly trained in the procedure. Each tooth will be cleaned above and below the gum line, and then polished to delay future plaque formation. Dr. Meisner and I will then check for deep pockets and any teeth that may be coming loose. Such teeth will need to be removed. You may be assured that all extractions performed at Aurora Pet Hospital are done by Dr. Meisner or me. We do not allow Veterinary Technicians to extract teeth under any circumstances.
Clients often express concern regarding the risks of anesthesia, especially since older pets are the ones most often afflicted with dental disease. While I will discuss that topic more thoroughly in a later "blog", allow it to suffice that a thorough physical exam, along with comprehensive laboratory tests, in combination with modern very low-risk anesthetics, make anesthesia safe for virtually any pet. Be assured that at Aurora Pet Hospital, each and every pet placed under anesthesia is carefully observed by our highly trained staff, along with state-of-the-art vital signs monitoring equipment.
Now that the teeth have been professionally cleaned and polished, a good home program needs to be established. If possible, frequent brushing using products designed to be used in dogs and cats, is the best way to prevent dental disease. It also helps to use products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council as being safe and effective in helping to prevent periodontal disease in dogs and cats. This product list can be obtained by visiting the following link: http://www.vohc.org/AcceptedProductsTable.pdf
Our doctors and staff members will be happy to discuss the use of such products with you, and recommend a specific one for your pet.
Lastly, and very important, I said in the first paragraph that: "periodontal disease is one of the most common conditions we see in our feline and canine patients, and it can be very detrimental to their long-term health.". This is because periodontal disease does not just affect the mouth, but the entire body. As I discussed earlier, pockets resulting from periodontal disease contain bacteria. They produce substances, which along with the bacteria, are released into the bloodstream every time a dog or cat chews. Periodontal disease has been found to be associated with atherosclerosis and cardiac events in humans. It is also known to be a leading cause of endocarditis (inflammation of the heart valves) and resulting congestive heart failure in dogs. It is a leading cause of kidney disease/inflammation (glomerulonephritis) and resulting kidney failure, along with infection (hepatic abscessation) and functional changes in the livers of both dogs and cats.
Here at Aurora Pet Hospital, we know how to recognize and professionally treat periodontal disease in our companion animals. It is after all our mission to: "provide the highest quality pet health and wellness services, to assist your pet in living a longer, happier, and healthier life." Helping you to maintain good oral health in your dog or cat is a very important part of that mission.
Thanks for "listening".......