Submitted by George C. Chondris D.V.M.
Director of Companion Animal Hospital of Washingtonville and Rockland County Veterinary House – Call Services

An unhealthy mouth is not only expensive but can take years off your pet’s life. More than eight out of 10 cats and dogs over five years of age suffer from some type of periodontal disease. To prevent oral disease, which is the number one health problem diagnosed in pets, it is essential to provide our pets with good dental care, both professionally and at home.

Once per week, with your pet facing you, lift his lips and examine his gums and teeth. You may be very surprised at what you find. All too often you may witness; plaque, bad breath, tartar, red gums, loose or missing teeth or other surprises.

Dental disease is more than a cosmetic hindrance, it may have serious life threatening consequences. Given the opportunity, bacteria from the mouth may enter the blood stream and lodge into various internal organs including the brain, lungs, heart, liver and kidneys.

As bacteria multiply on the teeth they form a coating called plaque, which also produces substances that irritate the gums. Given time, the plaque hardens and forms tartar and the gums become painful and swollen. The next step in this process involves pockets forming under the gums, bone loss and loosening of teeth. Swollen irritated gums bleed easily and bacteria slowly may enter the blood stream and travel to the major organs.

The rules for healthy teeth are the same as for people and animals, “Keep the mouth clean”. Try your best to find time to brush your pet’s teeth with an animal toothpaste (human products may be poisonous to animals). When brushing is not possible, offer tartar control treats, rope toys, chew toys or other products designed to clean the teeth after meals. Many companies sell water additives that help slow down plaque formation and maintain fresh breath. Lastly, do not forget to discuss dental programs with your veterinarian.

At a minimum, your vet can clean and polish your pet’s teeth on an annual or biannual basis. Much like what your dentist does, your vet will use ultrasound equipment to clean and polish the teeth, something that cannot be performed at home or at the groomers. X-rays are sometimes needed to assess the health of the teeth and determine if any teeth need to be extracted. Finally, when a serious matter is found, a dental referral for a veterinary dentist may be warranted.

Veterinary dentistry is becoming more common and more sophisticated. Pets can have the same procedures as people: root canals, crowns, and even braces. Some veterinarians specialize in dentistry and are board-certified. New products are continually becoming available to help veterinarians and owners provide the best possible oral care for pets.

Make sure good dental care is part of your pet’s present and future!

Chondris can be reached in his office at 845-496-9058 and on his cell phone at 917-846-9150

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