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Dentistry for Pets

Veterinarian Reviewed on January 31, 2013 by Dr. Janice Huntingford

February is Pet Dental month in many veterinary practises in Canada and the United States. Oral hygiene is an important issue for dogs and cats.

Why Does Pet Dentistry Concern Me?

Bad breath is very common in dogs and cats and is often the first sign of dental disease. 85% of all dogs and cats have periodontal disease by the age of 2 years. Periodontal disease starts with plaque accumulating on the teeth. If the plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar. Accumulations of tartar lead to swollen and sensitive gums and gingivitis. By this time your pet has advanced dental disease. Advanced dental disease is not just a cosmetic issue—it can have effects on many internal organs. There is scientific evidence that bad teeth can create bad hearts, lungs, and even kidneys. Poor dental care can actually shorten a pet’s life.

The speed with which dental progresses depends on breed of dog or cat and diet. Smaller breeds seem to have more dental problems earlier in life than larger breed dogs. Purebred cats such as Siamese have more dental problems than their mixed breed cousins. When I was in veterinary school many years ago, we were taught that dogs and cats should be fed dry food to help remove tartar from their teeth. In general this is not true. The Veterinary Dental Society says that dogs and cats eating dry food do not have any better dental health than those fed exclusively canned food.

If your pet has infections in the mouth, loose teeth or swollen gums, he or she may need a deep cleaning under anesthetic to eliminate the problem. If possible, it is best to try and prevent dental disease.

What Can be Done to Prevent Dental Disease?

Pets fed raw diets actually have the best teeth. Dogs who have 1 to 2 raw bones weekly have better teeth. If you are going to provide bones for your dog’s teeth, do not use chicken or pork bones but either lamb or goat bones. Large beef bones can be used with larger dogs but you do run the risk of breaking teeth. These bones can be given frozen to the dog and taken away after about 1 hour. I always feed these outside as they do make a mess. Brushing your pet’s teeth on a daily basis will eliminate the plaque and improve dental health. Be sure to use a pet tooth paste and start when your pet is young. There are oral rinses and water additives that you can use for bad breath, but use with caution if these contain alcohol. Chinese herbal formulas are sometimes helpful but brushing and raw diets work the best.


Dentistry in Pets

Read also: Bad Breath can be Bad

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for 28 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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