As pet owners, it can be very easy for us to neglect dental care in our cats and dogs. They are animals, after all. Don’t animals all have yucky mouths? But they aren’t just animals, they are our pets, and they receive care, unlike their wild counterparts. When we take on the responsibility of a pet, we commit to doing whatever it takes to relieve them of pain and suffering. Unfortunately, dental disease can be very painful. It may not be as obvious as other ailments and diseases, but that doesn’t make it any less important. We owe it to our pets to protect them from the discomfort and pain that dental disease can cause.
I like to contextualize dental discomfort in our pets by comparing it to a human toothache. Often humans can have dental issues that are truly painful, but not evident to anyone but their highly trained and educated dentist. Imagine how painful a tooth must be if it is visibly rotten. Sometimes we feel uncomfortable after a routine dental cleaning because of the invasive scraping of the probes. We comfort ourselves with a cold smoothie, or mashed potatoes for dinner. But our gums do not look like they are in pain. When we pry open our pet’s mouth, and we see inflamed, red or bleeding gums on teeth covered in tartar, we should imagine what our mouths might feel like if they were in the same shape. Then imagine how they must feel when their diet consists, in large part, of very crunchy kibble. Ouch!
All pet parents are highly encouraged to monitor their pet’s dental health. There are a number of things we can do to help protect our pets from painful dental disease.
Our Enhanced Optimum Care plan includes an annual Dental Prophylaxis. It means that once a year, your pet is placed under general anesthesia and carefully monitored by a Registered Veterinary Technician while we clean and polish their teeth. They wake up with a fresh mouth and are none the wiser. Please note that this Optimum Care procedure does not include dental radiographs or extractions. However, with regular prophylaxis from a young age, we may be able to avoid extractions all together!
Additionally, if oral health care is started early, it can benefit our pets substantially. If we brush the teeth of young animals regularly, they become used to it and don’t mind having their teeth brushed as they get older. It can become part of a family routine. There are several pet-safe kinds of toothpaste available that your dog or cat may come even few as a treat! They are offered in such flavours as beef and seafood! Even the act of brushing with warm water only can go a long way. There also exists a variety of pet toothbrushes, including a model that slips onto the owner’s finger for easier brushing.
In addition to manual cleaning, our pets dental health can be improved by dental diets or treats. Both Royal Canin and Hills make kibble specifically designed to minimize plaque and tartar formation on teeth. The kibble size of these diets is large so that plaque can be scraped off the teeth as the animal crunches on the kibble. As well, these diets include ingredients designed to break down plaque and tartar with each meal. These assets can also be found in some dental treats! For example, Greenie treats can help to clean your pets’ teeth as well as acting as a tasty treat or reward.
If you have any questions about how to help prevent dental disease in your pet, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team by phone or e-mail, we are always happy to help improve the quality of life in all of our furry friends.
Written by: Shelby Walsh, RVT