Dental care improves pets' lives
Cats and dogs need proper dental care throughout their lives in order to enjoy the longest, healthiest lives possible. Caring for oral health can make a big difference in your pets' quality of life, especially as they get older. The foundation for this lifetime with a healthy mouth begins in infancy.
An oral examination is part of a complete physical examination, and should be performed at the first visit to the veterinarian with a puppy or kitten. The doctor will check to see that the baby has the proper number of teeth and that they are properly positioned. As the pet returns for recheck examinations and booster vaccinations, the eruption of new teeth can be monitored.
Special attention needs to be paid to the mouths of small and toy breed dogs, as they are more prone to having retained deciduous teeth ("baby" teeth that don't fall out as the permanent teeth come in). Sometimes these teeth need to be extracted to allow the adult teeth to develop with proper alignment and prevent gum problems that may develop when food and other debris wedges between teeth that are too close together.
In young adulthood, the primary dental care that is needed is periodic cleaning to prevent the development of gum disease. Owners can help keep teeth clean by brushing their pets' teeth regularly, feeding dry food and providing proper chewing devices.
Most cats and dogs will need their teeth cleaned professionally for the first time somewhere between 2 and 5 years of age.
After that, they may need a cleaning every year or two. Some pets will accumulate tartar more rapidly than the average and need more frequent cleanings. If your pet has "bad breath," it's probably a sign that it needs an oral exam.
Having your pets' teeth professionally cleaned when it's recommended by the doctor is one of the most important things you can do to care for its entire body, not just its mouth. The normal mouth contains many bacteria that will cause problems if they get into other areas of the body.
If gum inflammation or deeper periodontal disease is allowed to develop, these bacteria get into the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. The kidneys and heart valves are two locations where secondary infections often develop.
These infections may not be obvious immediately, but they can cause insidious damage and lead to premature kidney failure or heart failure.
And, allowing periodontal disease to progress by not cleaning teeth when they need it can cause serious problems down the road inside the mouth.
Once bone is lost around the roots of the teeth from periodontal disease, it will never be replaced. When enough bone is lost that a tooth becomes unstable, the only treatment to let that infected area heal is extraction of the tooth.
With modern veterinary dental care, tooth loss in older pets does not have to happen, and shouldn't. It's disappointing to have to extract loose teeth from a pet and look back in the medical record to see that cleaning had been recommended years earlier, but never was done.
Older pets also need to have their mouth examined by a veterinarian to look for other problems such as oral tumors, broken teeth, or cavities. If these problems are detected and treated early enough, your pet's quality of life will be enhanced.
Your pets' doctor realizes that proper dental care is one of the foundations for overall good health. Please follow the doctor's recommendations to maximize the quality of life that you and your pet enjoy.
Dr. Greg McGrath, a veterinarian at Cedar Lake Pet Hospital in Biloxi, Miss., encourages questions for this column. Write to South Mississippi Veterinary Medical Association, 20005 Pineville Road, Long Beach MS 39560 and include a self-addressed stamped envelope.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates acquire pitcher Blanton from Royals for cash
- Starkey: Garoppolo baffles Steelers
- Peduto blasts Wolf’s plan to borrow $3B to shore up pensions
- Tight ends’ role in Steelers passing game continues to lessen but players remain selfless
- Steelers notebook: LB Dupree sits out backs-on–backers drill
- McCutchen, Pirates cruise to interleague victory over Twins
- Derry boy recovering at home after high-profile intestinal transplant
- Inside the Steelers: Williams’ quickness out of backfield evident in drills
- Steelers’ Bell unsure why NFL reduced his suspension
- Hempfield man serving life without parole for killing wife tells judge he’ll pay restitution when he’s released
- Extremes in weather hurt crops in Westmoreland