“Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition occurring in adult dogs and cats. By 3 years of age most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease” 1
Plaque is a soft, sticky, whitish mat-like film attached to the tooth surface that is formed by colonization of bacteria. Tooth brushing every day can remove plaque from the teeth. Tooth brushing is the gold standard of care to prevent gingivitis and gum disease in humans and pets.
For the busy house hold who does not have time to brush your pets teeth daily, don’t worry, we understand! There are plenty of other options to help prevent plaque and gingivitis for your pet. Here is a list of options to help prevent dental disease in your pet in order of effectiveness:
- Teeth brushing* Gold standard
- Many groomers also offer teeth brushing services!
- DentaHex Oral Care Chews for dogs OR CET Hextra treats for cats.
- Designed to take 1 – 20mins for complete consumption. This allows ample time for the enzymes in the treats to work their magic on the teeth. So to recap.
- Specially formulated diets such as T/D or Healthy Advantage Oral Care made by Hills (can also be used as treats!)
- Drinking water additives or mouth rinses
- Over the counter dental treats
- Only mildly helpful due to the speed they are consumed.
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum tissue. This can be caused by plaque and tartar build up around the gum line. If you have ever brushed yours or your pet’s teeth and noticed some blood in the saliva it was because of gingivitis. Gingivitis is the beginning of periodontal disease. Gingivitis can be prevented with good, at home dental care and attention.
Periodontitis is advanced gingivitis that threatens tooth viability.
Tartar/Calculus is hard yellowish to brownish-black deposit on teeth formed through mineralization of dead bacteria, dental plaque and the salts in salivary secretions. This when an anesthetized dental cleaning is warranted. No amount of brushing, flossing, special treats, foods or mouth washes will remove tartar and calculus. It is as hard as a rock and must be carefully and surgically scraped off with proper equipment so as to not damage the underlying tooth and enamel.
Periodontal Disease is graded 1 – 4. 1
Grade 1 – plaque and calculus are present causing gingivitis. Reversible with proper anesthetized veterinary dental cleaning
Grade 2 – Early periodontitis. Mild to moderate plaque and calculus, partial loss of gums and bone. Teeth may be able to be saved if treatment is pursued and quickly!
Grade 3 – Moderate periodontitis with moderate to significant plaque and calculus. Progressive destruction of the gum and bone. Teeth may need to be extracted. The pet’s mouth is sore and may cause eating or behavior problems.
Grade 4 – Advanced periodontitis with significant plaque and calculus. The pet’s mouth is painful and chronic bacterial infection is destroying the gum, teeth and bone. The bacteria can also spread to the blood stream and begin to colonize other organs such as kidneys, liver and heart. This is called bacterial translocation and endocarditis. Significant tooth loss is expected during a dental procedure.
If your veterinarian recommends a dental cleaning for your pet it is because we have found gingivitis, plaque and/or tartar and we are trying to prevent periodontitis and tooth loss. We want to intervene at grades 1 – 2 so we can prevent 3 and 4.
Do not be fooled by the “awake dental cleanings” that some facilities may offer. This type of dental cleaning is glorified teeth brushing. I think it is very helpful in prevention of dental disease but it does NOT replace a thorough veterinary oral exam and anesthetized dental cleaning procedure. For those owners who have reservations about general anesthesia we understand your concerns but we ask you not to worry. A veterinarian will not recommend a dental cleaning to you if they think there is a reason that your pet would not be a good anesthetic candidate.
At Deerfield Veterinary Hospital we offer the highest standard of care for your pet’s dental experience. All pets are under general anesthesia so every individual tooth can be assessed properly. We have special dental radiology equipment so we can visualize tooth root and bones to help aid in the assessment of tooth viability. Once all the teeth are cleaned and assessed, we will surgically and carefully remove any teeth that need to be removed and close up the defects that are left behind to expedite recovery and facilitate a pain free healing process. We have the same dental equipment that you would find in your own human dental office. We also have continuous EKG monitoring, in house blood machines and a dedicated technician to be with your pet for not only the dental cleaning but all the way through recovery and waking. Your pet’s safety and quality of care is our number one concern.
If you have questions or concerns about your pet’s dental health please call to schedule an appointment for a veterinarian to evaluate him/her.
1 – American Veterinary Dental College
February was National Pet Dental Health Month, but your furry friend’s oral health should be a priority all year long! According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have oral disease by 3 years of age.
Merle Waggard here knows smart puppies start brushing early to guard against dental disease.
Dr. Denise Roche, a Springfield, Mo veterinarian, and the Deerfield staff want to remind you good oral hygiene is crucial for the overall health of your lovable four-legged companion. In fact, periodontal infections in dogs or cats cause far worse than bad breath. Such infections can spread harmful bacteria to the heart, liver, and kidneys. To avoid those life-threatening consequences, pet owners can take precautions against two especially common issues that will eventually leave pets at risk for dental disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis in dogs and cats occurs when plaque along the gum causes inflammation. Without regular cleaning, the teeth and gums develop a thin film of protein—from food, saliva, and dead cells—that leads to bacterial plaque build-up. Left untreated, gingivitis will escalate to periodontitis, an irreversible but controllable infection. Periodontitis develops when deposits of calcium salts react with bacterial plaque, forming a hard brown or yellow tartar, which leads to inflammation, infection of the deeper tissues, bleeding gums, and eventual tooth loss if not treated by your veterinarian.
How Do I Know if My Pet Has Dental Disease?
Let’s hope your pet’s teeth and gums are tip-top. Better yet, let’s help you guard against the dreaded dental disease. This handy checklist should make it nice and easy to knowledgeably check your pet’s teeth at least once a week:
- Bad breath is bad news for more than just your own nose, especially if it returns within one or two months of a professional cleaning.
- Broken or discolored teeth should sound the alarm.
- Red or swollen gums is a sure sign of irritation.
- Keep your eyes peeled for bleeding in your pal’s dishes or on chew toys.
- Lumps or bumps in or around the mouth, especially swelling on one side, are cause for concern.
- Listen for chattering jaws when eating.
Changes in feeding and chewing behavior can also indicate a problem. If your pet turns away from food, paws at the mouth, drools excessively, or resists having its teeth brushed, it’s time to see your Deerfield vet.
How Is Dental Disease Treated?
A professional cleaning can help reverse, or stop the progression of, oral disease. Should your pet require gingival surgery or tooth extractions, we’ll perform the procedure during the dental cleaning to avoid multiple uses of anesthetics. Feline or canine tooth extraction is not fun for you nor your pet, but sometimes it’s the best option for avoiding further damage from periodontal disease.
How Can I Protect My Pet from Dental Disease?
Proactive care, including regular preventive cleanings and good hygiene at home, can help prevent oral disease in your dog or cat.
Pet Dental Care at Deerfield
Your Deerfield vet can remove bacteria that attack your pet’s gum line. General anesthesia is required for both dog and cat dental cleanings, and safety precautions include pre-surgical blood work on older pets as well as monitoring EKGs and oxygen levels. After polishing your friend’s teeth, we’ll walk you through all you need to know for excellent at-home care.
Pet Dental Care at Home
Good oral hygiene at home is as important for your cat or dog as it is for you, and it begins with a consistent brushing routine. You can remove harmful plaque by brushing your pet’s teeth either daily or every other day. Here’s how:
- First of all, be both gentle and persistent. Chances are you know from experience that brushing your pet’s teeth can prove challenging, but your patient determination is an act of love.
- Never use human toothpaste on animals, as it can upset your pet’s stomach. Your Deerfield vet can help you choose a toothpaste your pet will enjoy—yes, actually enjoy. A good pet toothpaste is non-foaming and comes in flavors that are appealing to dogs and cats. Introduce the toothpaste by using it as a treat, placing it on your finger as a reward.
- Ask us about toothbrushes designed especially for dogs and cats. Once your furry friend accepts brushing movements with your finger, switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush. Pointing the bristles at about a 45-degree angle to your pet’s teeth, use small circular strokes and focus on the outside of the teeth.
If your pet resists the at-home dental cleaning at any point, never outmuscle it to force the brushing. The animal may not recognize your concern and could instinctively bite due to fear of the toothbrush. You may also use a soft, clean piece of gauze. If your pet is unable to accept toothbrushing, which does happen sometimes, your Deerfield vet can recommend effective toys, treats, chews, and pet foods that aid your dental cleaning efforts at home. Another option is to choose gels, rinses, or sprays that promote oral health in both cats and dogs.
Tartar removers should always bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval, so you can be confident they’re safe for your pet. Visit the VOHC website for a list of approved products like the popular Greenie chew. Finally, ask your Deerfield veterinarian about nutritional options we recommend to promote healthy teeth, such as Hills Prescription Diet T/D.
National Pet Dental Health Month makes February a busy time at Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, and it was great to see so many pets for their dental checkups. Now that the month has past, we want to remind pet owners to keep that loving attention to dental care going strong throughout the year. With consistent hygiene at home and regular cleanings, your pet will enjoy clean teeth and better overall health for years to come!
Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or, more commonly “I really don’t clean her teeth”. While most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth. These exams help find preventable problems and even some very concerning issues. One of those concerns we are seeing more frequently is called Feline Tooth Resorption.
Tooth Resorption, or “TR” as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of six years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.
In the past, this disease has been called “neck lesions”, “cervical line lesions” and even the cumbersome “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)”. Whatever the name, we know that this condition is seen in cats who often appear normal. The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal. This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.
Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet. Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes. According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing. Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!
Clinically, most cats will appear normal, but observant owners may note that their cat prefers to chew food on just one side or that the cat stops grooming. They may “toss” dry food into the back of their mouth. As TR progresses, some pets will even develop sullen or aggressive attitudes, as if they are mad at the world!
Eventually, your veterinarian may point out how some of your cat’s cheek teeth are showing lines of inflamed, fleshy material right near the base of the tooth. At this point, the erosion has exposed the tooth to the bacteria of the mouth and this is when affected cats become extremely painful. Even under a general anesthetic, a slight touch of these teeth will cause a cat to “chatter” their jaw, indicating very serious pain!
Dental x-rays are the only way to diagnose TR. When the radiographs are taken, if TR is present, your veterinarian can see changes in the density of the roots and crowns of the teeth. All teeth can be affected, but the major “signal” tooth is the first one in the lower jaw. Some teeth can be partially affected, while others may have completely dissolved away leaving a “ghost image”.
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment that can save the pet’s teeth. A normal cleaning and polishing will not work! Veterinary dentists have even tried root canal therapies (endodonics), but they fail, as this resorption occurs on a microsopic basis. A tooth that is showing any signs of resorption needs to be extracted. Some cats will need full mouth extractions. All cats with a known history of TR should be x-rayed every six months to a year. It is likely other teeth are affected and they must be monitored.
The good news in all of this is that once your veterinarian knows about the disease, several things can be done to keep your cat comfortable. Experience has shown that cats who were once not eating well or even aggressive will often have a positive behavior change in just a matter of weeks. It is surprising how the removal of these painful teeth can often bring back your affectionate feline friend.
Owners are often unaware that their pets are experiencing such discomfort. But, regular visits to your veterinarian can help identify the issue and start work that will make your cat feel better. Contact your veterinarian to have a comprehensive oral examination for your pet, including dental x-rays and regular dental cleanings.
It’s a common discussion thread on any pet-related website…someone mentions that they have a friend whose aunt lost a pet under anesthetic and all of a sudden, stories of dogs and cats dying under anesthesia are flying back and forth. Some businesses even play upon these fears and misinformation by incorporating scary statistics of anesthesia related deaths into their marketing.
So, what’s the real story? How dangerous is veterinary anesthesia and how does your veterinarian make sure her patients have an uneventful surgery?
First, it’s important to realize that any two pets undergoing the exact same procedure may be at different risk levels for anesthesia. The animal’s age, weight and physical condition, as well as any concurrent disease, will determine anesthetic risk. There is no “one size fits all” type of anesthesia.
Next, consider the source of the information. As an example, companies and information sites that advocate “non-anesthetic” dental cleanings for pets, will often quote a small study showing 1 in every 256 animals had an adverse event under anesthesia. What they fail to tell you is that particular study was done at a veterinary teaching hospital whose caseload included many patients with significant risk factors for anesthesia. More comprehensive research has shown that problems with anesthetics occur in less than 1 in every 10,000 pets.
Starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s, veterinarians, working alongside human anesthesiology counterparts, began developing standards and guidelines designed to provide better comfort and analgesia for animals undergoing surgery. This eventually led to the development of the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia and approximately 220 board certified veterinary anesthesiologists around the world.
Their work has helped provide veterinarians in general practice better strategies in key areas, such as proper patient monitoring, prevention of drops in body temperature and how to best use the latest anesthetic drugs.
In any anesthetic event, knowing what’s happening on the inside of the patient is crucial. Modern monitoring devices, such as Welch Allyn’s ® Propaq monitor, allow veterinarians and surgical technicians to quickly spot trends in patient vital signs. By closely watching blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen saturation, body temperature, respirations and carbon dioxide levels, veterinarians can address and even prevent adverse events.
Likewise, safety precautions for the patient are highly important. Circulating warm water blankets or forced air warming blankets (Bair Hugger®) can prevent hypothermia in anesthetized patients while state of the art calibrated fluid pumps can deliver precise levels of medications or vital fluids. Many veterinary hospitals now require patients have an IV catheter for all but the shortest of procedures.
Even anesthetic drugs have improved. Veterinary science now has safe anesthetic gases that quickly leave the pet’s system once the drug is removed from the breathing circuit. Reversible injections, such as Dexdormitor®, provide ways for veterinarians to wake up your pet more smoothly and get him back home to you sooner.
Finally, trained and highly skilled veterinary technicians and assistants are on hand to monitor your four legged friend. Along with the high-tech equipment, these surgical assistants watch all vital signs so that the patient is kept at just the right level of anesthesia…deep even to prevent pain, but not deep enough to depress vital functions. Many of these technicians will also further their own education by specializing in anesthesiology and becoming part of the Academy of Veterinary Technician Anesthetists.
Your veterinarian understands your concerns about anesthesia…it can be very scary. But, before you believe all of the Internet rumors about rampant dangers of pet surgeries or dental cleanings, consider talking with your veterinarian and asking him about the hospital’s surgical and anesthesia protocols. You might be surprised how far advanced animal clinics will go to keep your pet safe and secure during surgery.
We have all seen the cartoons and commercials depicting dogs burying bones and stashing them away for later. Unfortunately, most pet owners are completely unaware of the significant risks and problems that are associated with feeding these treats. The situation has gotten so bad that even the FDA has warned consumers to avoid giving bones to their dogs.
Advocates of raw pet foods and other so-called “natural diets” claim that, given properly, bones are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and provide an instinctive means of stress relief. Some even state that bones provide important nutrients and should be included in your pet’s daily routine.
So, is it okay to give a dog a bone?
Most veterinarians answer that question with a resounding “NO” for several reasons. One of the most common problems for a dog with regular access to bones is fractured teeth.
Veterinarians will see unusual patterns of enamel wear, cracks in the teeth and even painful fractures of the canine teeth or large molars and premolars. Even if the fracture doesn’t look serious, the connection of the inside of the tooth with the outside environment can lead to abscesses that show up on the muzzle or under the eye. These conditions will require a veterinary dentist to extract the affected tooth or perform a root canal. Either of these procedures will also cause pain to the owner’s wallet as root canals can start at $700 – $1000 and even extractions are rarely less than $500.
The American Veterinary Dental College’s website (avdc.org) states that dried natural bones are “too hard and do not mimic the effect of a dog tearing meat off a carcass.”
Another common problem seen with dogs who chew on bones is an obstruction of the digestive tract. These treats can become lodged in the esophagus, the stomach or anywhere along the intestines. Blockages in any of these areas will require emergency surgery and several days of hospitalization. A typical exploratory surgery to remove an obstruction caused by a bone or bone fragments can exceed $2000 or $3000!
Cooked bones are especially dangerous as they have the potential to splinter. These shards then can poke through the digestive tract or even lacerate other delicate structures, such as the tongue. A pet who experiences a perforation of the stomach or the intestine may be at risk for a deadly case of peritonitis and an expensive trip to the animal ER.
Beyond these very common dangers, veterinarians will also see pets with bones lodged in their mouth, encircling the lower jaw or even serious constipation caused by bone fragments. These conditions are not only painful, but just imagine how scary it would be to have a bone fragment lodged in the roof of your mouth!
Proponents of giving bones to dogs downplay these risks, citing the importance of matching the right type of bone to the dog. They state that uncooked bones are much safer, decrease the risk of obstruction and provide more nutrients.
However, veterinarians routinely see the problems listed above with ALL types of bones. It doesn’t matter if it is a large beef cattle femur or a poultry wishbone, the risks are still there.
With respect to the nutritional argument, bones are composed of minerals that are commonly found in many other foods and dogs can’t properly digest uncooked collagen, the main protein component of bones. Your pet can get all the beneficial nutrients in other foods with a much lower chance of problems.
So, before you decide to follow the dubious information provided by these so called “experts”, spend some time talking with your veterinarian about these potential hazards. They have seen the bad cases and can fully explain the very serious risks.
Many safer alternatives to bones exist for dogs and your veterinary team can help you find the right match for your pet. It’s important that owners always supervise their dogs when giving them any chew item, especially one they have never had before.