Dental Health and Your Pet, Part II

Last month, we learned about dental disease in our pets and the process in which it occurs. Now, let’s focus on prevention and care.

Prevention is the best medicine. Thankfully, there are a variety of options to help prevent plaque and tartar accumulation, and thus prevent periodontal disease.

Brushing: Tooth brushing at least daily with pet-safe toothpaste is the gold standard for pet dental care. The mechanical action helps remove plaque before it becomes tartar. Many of the pet-safe toothpastes have anti-microbial action or plaque-digesting enzymes that keep working after the brushing is done. A bit of advice: Start brushing your pet’s teeth early in life. That way, it becomes just another part of your pet’s daily routine.

Chewing: Chewing is a pet’s natural defense to plaque and tartar accumulation. The abrasive action of chewing scours the tooth surface and stimulates the gums. There are many good dental chew treats and toys on the market. Be sure to purchase treats or toys that match your pet’s ability and desire to chew. Some pets may not chew on toys but will eat treats. Note that some may chew very aggressively and potentially break teeth on harder chew toys, so keep a close watch.

Topicals: Dental sealants are available that provide a waxy seal over the tooth surface to prevent plaque and tartar accumulation. Also, there are many water additives and mouth sprays that claim to remove plaque and tartar. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has only endorsed a select few of these products, including

Essential HealthyMouth water additives and sprays and Sanos dental sealant.

The better job you do of prevention, the less dental disease your pet will develop over time. Just like us, however, your pet may accumulate plaque and tartar or even develop periodontal disease in spite of your best efforts. At that point, they may need a professional dental cleaning and possibly oral surgery.

In-depth oral exams, dental cleanings and oral surgeries should only be done by a licensed veterinarian while the pet is under general anesthesia. Procedures done on an awake patient risk causing trauma to the gums, missing less evident disease, and allowing aspiration of blood, fluid and tartar material into the lungs. General anesthesia allows the veterinary team to do a more thorough, more effective and safer procedure. This does increase the cost of the procedure but it is worth the decreased risk. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and many veterinarians will sponsor specials to help families take care of their pets’ oral health.

Remember, prevention is the building block of a good oral health strategy. Use your veterinarian to find a prevention program that is ideal for your pet!

Pilchuck offers complete dental care for your pet, including dental prophylaxis (cleaning), digital dental radiographs and oral surgery. Call 360.568.3113 for more information or go to