You’ve been gone for hours; your beloved pooch is so excited to see you that he attempts to cover your whole face with kisses… but wait, what is that smell?! You chalk it up to dog breath and don’t think much more about the matter.
What you are likely smelling is the bacterial growth associated with plaque, gingivitis and periodontal disease. Dental disease is the number one disease that cats and dogs are diagnosed with and yet dental care is one of the least pursued treatments for our pets.
There are many aspects of dental care that can be performed at home to help prevent dental disease or at least help slow its progression. Daily tooth brushing is as good for our pets as it is for us. There are water additives and sprays that can help, but do not replace brushing and dental care by your veterinarian. Dental chews and diets may also be beneficial. You should discuss with your vet which products are best for your pet.
Once a pet has periodontal disease, the only effective treatment is a professional cleaning under anesthetic. You may wonder why this is necessary.
The only way to assess the health of a tooth is to clean off all the tartar, probe around the tooth and perform dental radiographs to look for bone loss and other pathology. Once a root has become infected, the only treatment is extraction of the tooth. Otherwise the infection will return and continue to fester even though you may not see evidence of this with the naked eye. Bacteria from infected teeth can enter the bloodstream and affect your pet’s other organs.
Many times I have gotten phone calls from owners after having a dental procedure performed on their pet thanking us for giving them their “puppy” back. If you have ever had a bad tooth, you can appreciate how much better you felt once the tooth was treated.
If you think your pet’s breath could be sweeter, set up an appointment with your veterinarian to create a dental health plan for your furry friend.
Shawn Buchholz is a veterinarian at Cascade Animal Clinic, serving animal owners in the Sky Valley.