Thursday, Aug. 6th 2020

Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats

The Importance of Dental Care

Does your dog have “doggie breath”?  Do you avoid snuggling your cat too close because of their mouth odor?  This is NOT a normal thing. Dental disease in dogs and cats can be very serious.

Dogs and cats, especially those fed kibble or high-carb diets, often develop tartar (the light brown stuff) or calculus (the hard gray or tan crunchy stuff) on their teeth as they age.  This material contains bacteria which can irritate the gums.  This irritation leads to swollen, red gums especially at the gumline, and they may get so bad they bleed.  As this process progresses, the gums may actually recede and the attachments of the teeth may loosen.  Pockets of infection may form causing tooth root abscesses.  In some animals these may be so severe as to erode the jaw, causing it to fracture.  In others, the abscess may work its way through bone to drain below the eye.  Teeth may loosen and fall out, or simply cause pain when eating.  Bad breath is not just bad breath.

Dental disease in pets is staged by your veterinarian.  Stage 1 dental disease consists of mild tartar and gingivitis (redness of gums) but gum margins are still well attached to the teeth.  Stage 2 is early periodontal disease where gum margins are thickened, shallow pockets are forming under the gums, and more tartar is present. Stage 3 is moderate periodontal disease where you have deeper pockets, more tartar and calculus, and possibly gum recession beginning in places.  Stage 4, advanced periodontal disease, has significant calculus, moderate to severe gum recession with roots becoming exposed, occasionally pus visible, and some loosening of teeth.  Here are pictures of the different stages:

Treatment of dental disease usually consists of a complete dental cleaning under anesthesia.  This is recommended for Stage 2 and higher dental disease, and may need to be done every year, or even more often, depending on the pet’s diet and what home care is being done.  The pet will be completely anesthetized, which means an exam and bloodwork will need to be done prior.  The teeth are hand scaled, pockets under gums are measured and recorded, loose teeth are extracted, then the teeth receive an ultrasonic scaling and high-speed polish.  Some pets may require antibiotics before or after the procedure.  Some lose significant teeth as any loose ones are extracted. If a pet has Stage 4 disease, we will recommend referral to a dental specialist who can do x-rays of the mouth to be sure to extract any with pockets or bone resorption around the roots since we don’t have dental x-ray capability here.  A basic dental costs $400-600.  X-rays and extractions will obviously increase this cost. 

Home Care and Prevention of dental disease: 

Did that price above make you gasp?  We do recommend Care Credit or pet insurance to help with such costs, but of course you won’t be covered for dental disease if it has already been diagnosed prior to purchasing insurance.  What can you do to keep from needing dental prophylaxis on your pet?  Ideally, you will start when they are young getting them used to having their mouth handled and teeth touched.  Then you can introduce a soft-bristled toothbrush, at first lightly touching just a tooth or two and offering treats.  As they accept this, you can brush more teeth each time. You do not need to get the insides of the teeth as most pets build tartar mainly on the cheek side.  If you make this a pleasant experience with praise and treats and don’t force them to accept it, many pets are fine with the process.  Do not use a human toothpaste.  Either a damp brush or a toothpaste designed for pets should be used.  Some pets may benefit from chewing raw bones but you should consult Dr Leonard to see if this is appropriate for your pet. 

If your pet refuses to let you handle their mouth, there are products like Periosupport powder, Greenies treats, and other dental supplements that you can feed to help reduce tartar. Some work better than others, so check with your vet to determine the best options.

It is worth noting that dirty teeth are not the only reason you may find your pet’s breath repulsive.  Kidney failure, oral tumors, infected wounds, gastric reflux, and other conditions may affect your pet’s breath.  Any change in mouth odor, or bad odors in general from your pet, should be checked by your veterinarian.   A healthy, clean pet should have little or no detectable odor.

COVID update: 

We continue to operate mainly curbside during the pandemic. This means we will bring your pet in for treatment while you wait in your car. Please bring a cell phone, have your pet leashed or in a carrier, and do not leave during the appointment in case we have questions, unless you have discussed it with us first.  If you leave without our knowledge, you may incur a small boarding fee if our next appointment arrives before you return, to cover cage cleaning costs.   You can pay any way you prefer, but most just give us their credit card number over the phone.  We do not save credit card numbers.  For rare exceptions such as complex cases or euthanasias, we may allow a family member inside, but anyone entering our building MUST wear a mask for the safety of our doctor and staff. If one of us gets sick, we WILL CLOSE until we are cleared to reopen.  We’re trying hard to avoid this, so please be patient and courteous during this exceptional time.  Once numbers are dropping significantly in the Kansas City metro area, we will gradually begin to allow more people inside. Please change your appointment if you or a close family member or co-worker is positive for COVID or showing symptoms. 

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Whole Health Pet Center
18011 E St. Rte 58
Raymore, MO 64083

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