All Posts tagged Pet Dental care

Feeding Bones is an Expensive Gamble.

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.

Attrition of canine incisorsVeterinarians 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!

Bones in a basket at pet store - Veterinary News NetworkCooked 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.

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Pets Need Dental Care Too!

Did you know that pets suffer from dental disease just like people do?  One of the worst things about dental disease is the pain.  Dogs and cats don’t always show how uncomfortable they are. Pets can have very serious dental problems, such as infected teeth, jawbone abscesses or fractured teeth and never say, “ouch” or hold their paw to their jaw, but they do hurt!  Many times, when these problems are corrected, a pet’s entire personality can change.  They often become more social, interactive and playful because they are no longer in pain.

So, how do you check for dental disease in your pet?  First, look for yellow or brown color of the teeth, not just in the front teeth, but also the back part of the mouth.  While this sounds very simple, most pet owners never lift their pet’s lip and look inside the mouth, so… Lift The Lip!  Next, just smell the breath.  It may not be minty fresh but it should not be foul smelling.  If it is, bad bacteria have already set up and are working on infecting the gum and even loosening the attachment of the teeth to the jawbone.  This means that dental disease has been progressing for months or years without you knowing.

A complete veterinary dental exam is necessary to discover hidden dental disease.  Most veterinarians today use a 12-step process for this procedure.  This assures that nothing is missed and all problems are properly treated.

The steps include:  a history and physical exam, an oral survey checking for such things as cancer and missing teeth, ultrasonic scaling of the teeth and subgingival scaling.  Subgingival scaling is critically important.  This involves removing tartar and debris from the part of the tooth you can’t see – the part under the gum.  This is where infection sets up.

Following the exam and cleaning, a complete polishing is done to remove irregularities in the enamel in order to slow future accumulation of tartar.  Next, the gum pockets are flushed and treated with antiseptic.  At this point, many veterinarians will apply a fluoride or enamel sealant treatment.

The next step includes compete charting of every tooth and the surrounding gum and bone tissue.  Using a dental probe, the gum line around each tooth is probed for pockets where infection may exist.  The location and depth of each pocket is recorded in the medical record, just as you have seen done at your own dentist’s office.

Next, a complete set of dental x-rays is taken.  Dental x-rays have become the standard of care in veterinary practice.  Without them, it is impossible to find many of the most serious dental problems such as fractured teeth, abscesses and developmental problems.  Only by taking x-rays can you know the complete health status of your pet’s mouth.

Finally, a treatment plan is developed for the problems found, all necessary treatments are done and instructions are given for home care and any follow-up care that is needed.  Pet owners are also taught ways to provide at home dental care to help keep their pet’s mouth and teeth healthy.

In order to perform a proper dental exam and treatment, it is essential that the pet be under anesthesia.  Anesthesia today is very safe, using the most modern medications, anesthetic gases and monitoring by skilled technicians.  Care for a veterinary patient under anesthesia is very similar to that of a human patient.

While the so called “no-anesthesia pet dentals” may sound appealing, the process has many risks and leaves most pets to suffer in silence simply because no actual treatment is done.  This is often performed by unlicensed and untrained trained individuals who only scrape tartar from the outside of the few visible teeth while your pet is awake (assuming your pet will hold still). The process has no medical benefit whatsoever.

They cannot remove tartar from the inside surfaces of the pet’s teeth, and more importantly, they cannot remove tartar below the gum line.  Often charging hundreds of dollars, these people prey on a pet owner’s fear of anesthesia. Worst of all, pet owners believe their pet’s teeth are healthy but underlying disease goes undetected and untreated, resulting in tremendous pain, tooth loss and systemic bacterial infections. In some states this practice has been outlawed.

So, to ensure your pet’s health and comfort, lift your pet’s lip and look at the teeth.  Then call your veterinarian for a complete dental exam and treatment.  This care is not expensive when you consider the complications and pain associated with untreated dental disease.

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High Tech Vision Looks Deep Into Your Pets Mouth!

Dental disease is the most common diagnosis veterinarians will make on any dog or cat over the age of one year.  Despite a Pet Dental Health Month each February and constant reminders from veterinarians, some owners simply overlook or are unaware of what’s happening inside their pet’s mouth.  But it is a real problem.  Left untreated dental disease can lead to serious problems like heart or kidney disease, not to mention the horrible bad breath!

Even pet owners who do routinely try to brush their pets’ teeth or look at the mouth can be fooled.  A study in the American Journal of Veterinary Research found that almost 30% of dogs and more than 40% of cats whose mouths were clinically normal actually had significant problems under the gumline.  In addition, if the pet had visible dental problems, veterinary dentists found additional pathology more than 50% of the time using dental X-rays.

Some very serious problems can be found under the gumline.  Root abscesses, fractures, jaw bone loss and even cancer often aren’t apparent with a visual examination.  Dental x-rays (radiographs) are needed to find and successfully treat these painful and significant issues.

The use of radiology for veterinary patients is not new.  Just like human dentists, veterinary dentists have long had the ability to use x-ray film and dental radiographic machines.  However, long delays in getting the right shot and developing the film meant that dogs and cats were under anesthesia for long periods of time.

Fast forward to today and we see a great leap in technology.  New digital sensors are replacing dental x-ray film and hand-held dental x-ray units are being used instead of large, wall mounted or floor units.  Images are captured by computer using very special software instead of saving and filing lots of film.

The benefit to all of this is that skilled veterinary dentists and technicians are now able to get a set of full mouth radiographs in less than 15 minutes.  That means less time under anesthesia for your pet and better imaging for diagnosis and treatment of problems in the mouth or around the teeth and roots.  It also means that problems in your pet’s mouth can be found more easily and treatment started sooner.

Using sophisticated software, veterinarians can manipulate these images to look at a tooth or root in great detail or magnify a suspected lesion.  If your veterinarian is using digital dental x-rays, areas of concern can be saved and even sent via email to a board certified veterinary dentist for review.

For some pet owners, the thought of having their four legged companion anesthetized for this is troublesome.  But, it is important to remember that our pets will NOT hold still while someone tries to place a sensor in their mouth or position their head in exactly the correct position.  Further, if a diseased tooth is found that needs extraction or a root canal, the pet is already for the procedure.

It is important to remember that most of the pet’s teeth and the problems they have are under the gumline where it can’t be seen in an awake animal.  Mis-leading marketing campaigns try to tell you that non-anesthetic pet dental scaling is best. But experts and veterinary dentists highly discourage all pet owners from falling for these scams.  Anesthesia is entirely necessary for proper evaluation of the pet’s mouth and for a a complete cleaning or even looking deeper should a serious problem be hidden.

Your veterinarian can help you understand that good oral care for your pets is more than scraping off tarter.  Proper dental care is good imaging, complete cleanings and then treatment and correction of the underlying problems.   And don’t forget, your help is then needed to provide the right type of at-home care, such as daily brushing.

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