Pet Dental Health Month
February is pet dental health awareness month.
This episode of Vet Chat with Dr.Ryan Llera, we share a veterinarian’s insight and a pet owner’s experience of maintaining our pets dental health.
A veterinarian’s insight into pet dental health:
Dr. Ryan Llera explains the importance of dental health in our pets.
Dental health is one of the most overlooked and under treated conditions involving pet health. Yet, it can have some of the biggest implications. Pet owners may notice it when they smell bad breath or in more advanced stages, if the pet has problems eating. Sometimes this pain is due to loose or broken teeth. In cats particularly, we can see what is called a feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, or FORLs. These FORLs are the closest cats get to actual cavities. With both dogs & cats, we can see abscesses develop at the tooth roots which aside from infection, if found in the lower jaw, can actually cause the bone to break if it weakens in just the right spot.
As dental disease progresses, larger issues can come into play from the standpoint of infectious diseases. Bacteria in the mouth (they’re the actual cause of the smell) spread through the bloodstream and can affect organs such as the liver, heart, & kidneys. This leads to some significant illnesses that may require hospitalization, or in the worst cases, organ failure.
Fortunately for your pet, you can help manage this vital part of their health starting at an early age. Daily tooth brushing with enzymatic pet toothpaste is the most ideal. Another consideration is dental diets from your veterinarian. These diets are different in that their makeup prevents them from crumbling as easily as other diet and therefore scrapes the teeth as they eat. How much simpler can it get?! Through proper maintenance, cleanings under an anesthetic may be kept to a minimum over the years and your pet can have a great smile!
The pet owners experience:
My personal experience maintaining dental health in my cat.
I’m experiencing first hand the benefits of maintaining my pet’s mouth and dental health. However, my cat Lily is experiencing the after effects of keeping her mouth and teeth healthy.
My cat Lily is 14 years old. When I think back to when Lily fist came into our home I don’t recall reading or hearing much about the importance of brushing your pets teeth. I assumed if my cats were eating dry food it would be enough to scrap the tartar from their teeth. It’s because of not being aware of the importance of brushing my pet’s teeth that I never started brushing Lily’s teeth as a kitten. The chance of Lily allowing me to brush her teeth now is non-existent.
A few of years ago Lily had her first dental cleaning. Everything went well and Lily came home sporting a fresh mouth and tartar-free teeth.
As Lily has aged – sorry the pun – she became “long in the tooth”, literally!
Lily’s two fangs were becoming longer and could easily be seen hanging down below her upper lip. The tarter was starting to build up again, her breath was no longer fresh smelling and her gums were becoming red and inflamed. After a consultation with our vet, it was determined Lily should be booked for a dental cleaning, removal of her two fangs, possibly a molar as well.
I admit, the thought of Lily being sedated at 14 years of age was a real concern for me. So Lily had a complete physical checkup that included a full pre-anesthetic blood workup. The results came back favourably and a surgery date was booked.
The first night and day following Lily’s dental surgery was the most unpleasant for Lily, and the greatest concern for us. Lily was wobbly on her paws, tired, not interested in eating, and she definitely couldn’t understand the feel of having missing teeth! As for us, we had a tiring first night, constantly watching Lily, making sure she remained calm and not wipe or rub her face disturbing the stitches.
A week has passed since Lily had her dental surgery; two fangs were removed, the remainder of her teeth cleaned and tartar removed. Thankfully there was no need for further extractions and the remainder teeth are healthy.
What has stuck me most since her dental work is Lily seems happier! She has adjusted well to missing her fangs, her breath no longer stinks, she is eating more, and has become more social and loving towards us. Could it be that Lily was in pain? Were her teeth and gums bothering her that much before the dental surgery?
I can’t be sure of the answer, but I know we have a happier, healthier cat!
- Do you brush your pet’s teeth?
- Have any of your pets ever experienced a dental cleaning or tooth extraction?
- If so, did you notice a difference in their attitude?
A big thank you to my veterinarian Dr. Judy Au for all her support and care of Lily, and for taking the before & after photos of Lily’s teeth and mouth.
Thank you Dr. Ryan Llera for sharing your professional insight of the importance of pet dental health.
Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic in Kingston, Ontario. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and they share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, 2 horses, and a rabbit. Ryan is also a regular guest writer for the Ontario SPCA blog. You can find more of his writing at drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook & drryanllera.com