Oral Care Is Critical For A Healthy Pet
Think of teeth like icebergs – what is visible is only a part of the structure; the rest is below the gumline.
But like an iceberg, there can be big things happening out of sight and that can lead to pain, infection and loss of teeth. And, the majority of pets will not give an obvious sign of oral discomfort until dental disease is very advanced.
Because our cats’ and dogs’ physiologic time clock runs faster than ours, maintaining good oral health becomes even more important as it is key for a long, healthy life.
Remember, roughly six months of human time is the equivalent of three to three and a half years of aging and associated changes. So, a dental assessment and cleaning every two years is like you going to the dentist once every 13 to 14 years. No wonder they have bad breath!
So, what is a pet parent to do? First, have your pet’s dental and oral health checked by your veterinarian and discuss if a professional veterinary dental cleaning is due. Additionally, your veterinarian can guide you through the variety of home veterinary dental care options so that you can find what works best for you and your pet – and what doesn’t work as well.
Second, commit to home oral care and checks for your pets. Flip those lips regularly to monitor teeth, gums and breath.
Many owners feel a concern about anesthesia, but it is not the big scary deal that you think. This is the safest means to have the focused time to take x-rays, scale and clean teeth, assess the entire mouth and all the teeth, and treat what needs to be treated. Anesthetic drugs are very safe and your veterinarian should tailor your pet’s individual plan for anesthesia and pain management.
And, always ask how your pet is going to be monitored. At our facility, for example, a dedicated veterinary nurse continually monitors heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, oxygenation, body temperature and many other parameters that are key to keeping a pet comfortable and recovering smoothly after the procedure is done. We don’t have that same veterinary nurse also cleaning and assessing the teeth – that is done by another dedicated and highly trained team member.
We want our patient’s owners to understand what is safe and effective dental care via professional veterinary dental care, versus potentially harmful and disease promoting treatments by laypeople without anesthesia. (A great discussion about professional veterinary dentistry versus anesthesia-free dental care and other information can be found at avdc.org/ownersinfo.)
Cost is always a concern, but if a cost is presented to you that appears too low, then there are likely to be surprises such as pre-anesthetic blood work, pain medications, etc. Those should be built in as part of good care.
Pet insurance can also help to cover the cost of care. But know that veterinarians are providing a level of dental care that on the human side you too would be anesthetized or heavily sedated. And, also keep in mind that the goal is for your pet’s health and long-term comfort – the pain of infection and periodontal disease is resolved with appropriate dental care.
Now it’s time to take a good look in your pet’s mouth. Then call and set up an evaluation so you can partner with your veterinarian to know what your pet’s level of dental disease truly is, and how to best manage for their health and comfort.
Dr. Margot Vahrenwald is the owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center at 2255 Oneida St. For more information, visit www.parkhillvet.com