Our dogs and cats need ongoing dental care as much as we do. Having a thorough oral and dental exam is done as part of a routine yearly health check can help our pets live longer and healthier lives. There are many diseases that can start in the mouth and the sooner we find them, the sooner we can help the pet feel better.
When Fluffy comes in for her annual check-up, the veterinarian will have a thorough look at the teeth, gums, tongue, lips and palate. They are not only checking for dental disease but are looking for all kinds of other diseases. Pale gums can indicate anemia; yellow gums can indicate liver disease and dark red gums can indicate advanced gingivitis and oral infections. The vet will also look for swellings that can be the beginnings of oral cancer, ulcers that can mean the pet has kidney disease or a viral infection and crusting around the lips that can be bacterial infection of the skin or an unusual autoimmune disease.
Dental disease is present in the majority of pets over the age of 3. This may seem like a surprising fact but let’s pretend you have never brushed your teeth for three years. Now, because your 3-year-old dog ages much faster than you do, let’s say she is closer to 21 years old. “But I feed her dental bones and crunchy kibble Doc” you may say. This can be helpful, but chewing gum and eating crunchy food does not help us all that much. By the time we are 21, we will likely have brushed out teeth at least 15000 times. We will also have had the dental hygienist clean and polish our teeth at least 20 times. And we still have tartar buildup! Are you surprised that dogs do too?
Dental and Oral disease in our pets is a very common problem. We see it in our exam rooms many times a day. There are lots of things that can be done to prevent and treat diseases. Make sure your pet gets regular exams and ask your vet how you can keep your pet’s mouth as healthy as possible. This will give you many years of happy and fresh smelling cuddle time.
Written by Dr Morag Maskery