February is Pet Dental Health Month
By Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
We know that recent years have brought an endless array of dental chews, treats, and mouth products designed to improve our pets’ teeth and gums. What many may not know, though, is that the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors Pet Dental Health Month every February. This is an awareness campaign to help the public understand the importance of proper dental care to the health and well-being of our furry friends.
Information on the AVMA website stresses preventative aspects of dental care. A short video shows how calculus, which is the buildup of hardened material on the outside of a tooth, creates a roughened surface that attracts plaque. This plaque, which is basically bacteria, causes the body to react with the red, swollen, bleeding gums, which is gingivitis. This is the stage that is still reversible if the pet receives proper dental care with the veterinarian as well as appropriate home care.
People brush their teeth every day to prevent this first stage of periodontal disease. Studies show less than 1 percent of people brush their dog’s or cat’s teeth, however. This means that when pets do come in for dental cleanings that require anesthesia, it is likely that some of the teeth will be in more advanced stages of periodontal disease. Some of the teeth can still be saved with more in-depth cleaning below the gum line and dedicated home care by the owners, but other teeth may need to be removed.
If tooth removal is a necessary part of a pet’s oral care, owners should know that pets adapt well after the procedure. Gum tissues are sewn closed so that painful dry sockets do not form. Pets go home the same day of oral surgery and can eat that same night. Nerve blocks are used, and many pets go home with additional pain medications.
This brings up the importance of a comfortable mouth to our pets’ wellness. Since dogs and cats evolved from wild ancestors, they retain the instincts to hide any dental pain. They may have bad breath or chew more on one side of their mouth.
They cannot tell you they are living with dental pain, but they can show you how they feel better after it is treated. Veterinarians all have the stories from owners of how a cat started playing with its toys again or a dog began running and playing better once the dental disease was corrected.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.