Doggy breath is no joke! The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have oral disease by the time they are 3 years old. And why would that be surprising? Can you imagine the state of your teeth if you hadn’t brushed them for 3 years?
Not only is oral disease extremely common, (I see dogs and cats with a broad range of dental disease many times per day at Valley Veterinary Services animal clinic) if left untreated it can dramatically affect overall health. This is because bacteria thrive in the plaque and tartar that build up along the teeth and below the gums, causing gingivitis. As the gingivitis progresses, bacteria invade the ligaments, soft tissues and bones that anchor the teeth in place, causing periodontal disease, a painful inflammation that leads to gum recession, bone infection, loosening of teeth and ultimately leads to tooth loss. Once gingivitis or periodontitis develop, bacteria are able to spread through the bloodstream and infect other internal organs. Thus, periodontal disease can be a source of repeated or recurrent infections in the liver, pancreas, heart valves, kidneys and urinary tract.
The initial sign of periodontal disease is often bad breath. Unfortunately, many people mistake the odor of dental diseasewith “doggie breath” and believe that it is part of normal aging. Dental disease can be prevented through daily home care (including regular tooth brushing and the use of appropriate diets designed to minimize the accumulation of plaque and tartar) and regular veterinary visits for dental examinations and complete cleaning and polishing. Don’t be fooled by advertisements or testimonials that suggest that water additives, oral sprays, dental gels or tartar diets will be all you need to keep your pet’s teeth clean. These products may help, but they are no substitute for regular brushing. And just as we require regular professional dental cleanings to keep our teeth healthy, so too do our dogs and cats. The biggest difference is that our pets will not submit to sitting quietly in the dentist’s chair for an hour while somebody scrapes and polishes their teeth. And don’t be fooled by advertisements for so-called “holistic” dentistry. This is a common reference to non-veterinary dental scraping procedures done on your awake pet. These are done by non-licensed, non-veterinary, non-regulated persons. These procedures are merely cosmetic at best and are likely harmful to your pet at worst. (VIDEO – more on non-veterinary dentristry here).
Dental disease is perhaps one of the most under-recognized serious health risks for our pets, in part because it is a ‘silent’ disease. Animals cannot tell us if their teeth hurt. Therefore, it is up to you to “flip the lip” and look at your pet’s teeth often, to brush those teeth, and to visit your veterinarian at least once per year so that he or she can look for evidence of gingivitis and/or periodontitis and recommend the appropriate treatment to keep your pet’s pearly whites looking good for life. Optimum oral health can go a long way to ensuring optimal health well into those senior years.
Posted by: Dr. Mark Steinebach