As humans most of us are taught about the importance of looking after our own teeth. However, if you are a new or relatively inexperienced animal owner, you may not realize that the same care and attention should also be given to the dental health of your pet. Since your pet is unable to take care of her teeth herself, it falls to you as her responsible and compassionate owner to undertake all aspects of routine dental care for her.
Why it is important to take care of your pet’s dental health?
The reasons why it is essential to take good care of your pet’s dental health are pretty much identical to why you would feel it is important to look after your own teeth. Firstly, doing so can help prevent your pet from suffering from the debilitating pain that is associated with many dental problems. Secondly, you can help your pet to maintain healthy, nice-looking teeth for many years to come. However, finally and most importantly, you could also help to protect your pet’s general health and wellbeing.
Periodontal disease and your pet’s health
Periodontal disease is by far the biggest threat to the health of your pet’s teeth. Like the human version of the condition, it occurs when bacteria found in plaque irritates the soft tissues of the gums. Eventually if the spread of plaque onto the gums is not treated, symptoms including bleeding, swelling, bad breath, pain, abscessed and widespread infection can occur. The infection could potentially cause the bone in the jaw to deteriorate, tooth loss to occur and even bacteria to enter the bloodstream and enable the infection to spread throughout the body. Studies have shown that pets (and humans) that develop periodontal disease are more likely to suffer from medical conditions including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even cancer.
Fortunately, by taking care of your pet’s teeth, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of this happening. While there are many different ways in which you can contribute to the health and wellbeing of your animal’s teeth, one of the most important things that you can do is to ensure that she attends her regularly scheduled dental exams.
What are pet dental exams and what happens during the appointment?
As you might expect, pet dental exams are not at all dissimilar to the type of appointment you experience when you attend your regular check-ups with your dentist. They also serve the same purpose – to enable your vet to spot signs of dental problems early so that prompt treatment can be sought. In doing so, it may be possible to protect your pet from the effects of dental issues, as well as also minimizing the impact that treatment will have on your bank account.
Most pets will be recommended to attend a dental check-up at least once a year. However, if your pet is older or suffering from ill health, the frequency of these appointments might be increased to every six months. This is because changes are likely to happen more quickly, putting your animal at increased risk of developing a serious health problem.
During your pet’s dental exam, you can generally expect the following things to happen:
- A consultation to discuss your pet’s medical history and any changes or concerns you may have noted since her last dental exam.
- An examination of her head and neck during which your vet will check for any abnormalities such as lumps, pain or enlarged lymph nodes.
- A check of your pet’s breath to assess whether she is likely to have underlying health problems. Bad breath can indicate periodontal disease while sweet breath could suggest she is suffering from diabetes.
- An assessment of your pet’s teeth and gums. Not only will your veterinarian be looking for chips, cracks and decay, but they will also check for any retained teeth and for the presence of periodontal disease.
- A check for any unusual growths or sores inside the mouth.
As much as two thirds of each of your pet’s teeth may be beneath the surface of her gums and in some instances, it might also be necessary for your pet to have an x-ray of her teeth which will enable your veterinarian to assess what is happening to them below the gum line.
Many parts of the dental exam can be performed without sedation, but if your pet is of an anxious disposition, your vet might still recommend that the entire process is carried out while your pet is under the effects of sedation.
By ensuring that your pet attends the appointments for her regularly scheduled dental exams, you could prolong the health and function of her teeth, as well as help to keep her whole body in optimal condition.
To find out more about pet dental exams or to schedule an appointment for your precious animal, please contact our Noblesville veterinary office today.