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Posted on 01-26-2013

Happy New Year!  It's hard to believe we are well into the new year.  This time of year, we start thinking about the dental health of your pets.  February is National Dental Month and our focus this year is on dental cleaning, and preventative home care for your dog and cat.  We've had many questions about why dental care is important to your pets' health - and - what owners can do at home to help prevent dental disease.  I hope this Q & A helps answer some of these questions.  And, you are always welcome to call us for more information and bring your pet in for a dental exam.

Q - How does dental health impact the overall health of my dog or cat?

A - Dental health in pets is usually taken for granted, but paying attention to your pet's mouth with preventative dental care can lead to a much greater life span and better quality of life.  Dental disease is very common in pets so a yearly exam and good homecare can go a long way to maintaining your pet's teeth and overall health.  Check our home page for Triva Facts about pet dental healths.  Please give us a call if you are unsure about how to care for your pet's teeth.  

Q - What do you do in a dental exam?

A - When a pet comes in for an annual exam we check the mouth for tarter, loose teeth and the potential for progressive gum disease.  The care of your pet's teeth is an important part of your pet care program and may consist of yearly cleaning, extractions, or a rigorous home cleaning plan.

Q - If my pet needs a cleaning, what can I expect?

A - Dental cleaning is an outpatient procedure.  You bring your pet to us on a scheduled surgery day in the morning and pick up that afternoon.  If your pet is over 7 years of age, we require a pre-anesthetic blood profile to ensure the internal organs are healthy for the anesthesia.  This is recommended for pets under age 7, but not required.  We, then, administer an anesthetic and use an ultrasonic scaler to clean the teeth.  We finish with a polisher.  In some cases, extractions may be needed if the tooth or surrounding gum tissue is unhealthy.  Dogs and cats do very well with these extractions.  They can continue to eat dry food the next day.  During the procedure, we utilize intensive monitoring including: an EKG, pulse oximetry, and in some cases, blood pressure checks.  We might decide to send an antibiotic and pain medicine home if your pet needs these prescriptions.

Q - So, how do I take care of my pet's teeth at home?

A - You can start cleaning your pet's teeth when they are young, later in life or after a professional cleaning.  Now is a good time to get started.  The best home care plan includes brushing the teeth.  This is best if done daily, but even once per week will give you positive results.  Be sure to use a toothpaste formulated for dogs or cats as human toothpaste can be toxic.  Many dental kits include a finger and a regular toothbrush depending on what works best for your pet.  Start stlow and make it a fun event.  It's ok to clean a few teeth at first.  You can work up to the whole mouth as the pet becomes more comfortable with toothbrushing.

Q - What if I have tried and my pet just won't let me clean the teeth?

A - If your pet resists toothbrushing, there are dental wipes which are a good alternative.  These require a quick wipe and have been quite successful in keeping pets' mouth healthy.  Another choice is tartar control foods and treats.  These are made for cats and dogs in small bites and regular form.  Additional choices include: sprays and rinses, dental chews and bones.

We hope you help us celebrate Dental Health Month by treating your pet to a dental health plan.  If you have questions, contact us and we will be glad to help you get started.