Veterinary dental care should rank among top priorities for caring pet owners

La Jolla Veterinary Hospital | Lidja Gillmeister

Professional veterinary dental care is an important part of proper health and hygiene for your pet.

By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM

For better or worse, for richer or poorer, most Americans remain dedicated pet owners when it comes to providing veterinary care for their furry, fuzzy, scaly and feathered friends. According to the Los Angeles Times, a recent poll indicates that the nation’s pet owners frequently prioritize veterinary care despite the cost in order to ensure the health and safety of their extended family members – be they canine, feline, equine or otherwise. When it comes to veterinary dental care, these numbers are especially encouraging: according to the American Veterinary Dental Society, at least 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats develop gum disease by the age of three, making routine visits for a professional veterinary evaluation and cleaning all the more critical to the health and well-being of America’s much-loved pets.

Just like in humans, periodontal disease in pets begins with the build-up of plaque and calculus on the teeth, particularly below the gum line. Signs and symptoms of periodontal disease in cats and dogs may include bad breath, bleeding and gum inflammation – and, if allowed to progress, these symptoms can ultimately result in gum recession, loosening and the eventual loss of teeth. However, despite the high canine and feline incidence rates of gum disease, there are steps that pet owner can take to prevent and reverse symptoms early on – both at home and at a local veterinary clinic.

At-home oral hygiene routines should include regular brushing with a toothpaste formulated for animals, administered 1-3 times per week and, for optimal pet cooperation, linked to fun activities like walks, playtime or treats. (It is important to note that pet owners cannot use human toothpaste on their pets, as some such products contain ingredients that can sicken pets if ingested). Owners new to brushing should start the process while their pets are still young, if possible, and begin slowly – starting off using a finger covered with toothpaste for short periods at a time and gradually building up to using a toothbrush for more thorough cleaning. Most pets may resist the brushing process at first – but the benefits are worth it: statistics suggest that brushing a pet’s teeth once per week reduces plaque by 75%, while brushing 3 times per week can reduce plaque by up to 90%, significantly cutting chances for infection and disease.

Signs of periodontal disease: when to visit your veterinarian

Home care can be incredibly effective when it comes to preventing periodontal disease in dogs and cats. However, if over the course of an at-home brushing routine you encounter blood on the toothbrush, tan or brown buildup on the teeth, loose or broken teeth or any other oral abnormalities, it is important to schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian for an immediate evaluation. A qualified and experienced veterinarian will perform deep cleaning to remove hardened tartar and any other necessary procedures using special instruments and general anesthesia – a critical safety precaution to prevent possible injury due to a pet’s head movements during scaling or polishing. Be advised that non-professional dental scaling – that is, any dental procedure performed without anesthesia and without the presence of a licensed veterinarian – is not only inappropriate and dangerous to the health and safety of your pet, but also illegal according to a unanimous decision put forth by the California Department of Consumer Affairs Veterinary Medical Board.

At La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, we understand that canine and feline dental cleaning is not a purely cosmetic procedure, but rather an important medical treatment that requires anesthesia in order to provide the veterinarian access to the gingival pocket – the space between the gum and the root of the tooth where periodontal disease is active. Our licensed veterinary professionals administer dental scaling using inhalation anesthesia (provided through a cuffed tube to protect your pet’s airways), thereby easing stress and confusion to your pet during the procedure while eliminating pain resulting from examination and treatment of affected dental tissues. In addition, all pet dental cleanings at our La Jolla veterinary facility include courtesy full-mouth radiographs to screen for any additional problems lurking below the gingiva or inside the teeth.

To learn more about our highly trained veterinary staff or schedule an appointment for a dental exam, visit us online today:

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Posted by Social Media Staff on Dec 7, 2011. Filed under Columns, Dr. Lidja Gillmeister, DVM, Sponsored Columns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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