Celebrate National Pet Dental Month by brushing your pet’s teeth

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Did you know more than 80% of pets over 3 years old have periodontal disease (gum disease)? That’s why it’s so important to take care of your pet’s oral health. If you have a regular dental/oral regimen for your pet, good for you, it’s one of the most important ways to keep your pet happy and healthy. If not, it’s time to start.

February is National Pet Dental Month, which reminds us that our pet’s oral health is just an important as our own. Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria in your pet’s mouth hardens on your pet’s teeth and becomes a layer of plaque. Periodontal disease can affect both dogs and cats and it includes symptoms such as:

  • Drooling
  • Painful mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Sneezing, nasal discharge
  • Bleeding or red gums
  • Tooth loss

The worst part, periodontal disease not only affects your pet’s teeth, it can also affect different organs in your pet’s body. Chronic periodontal disease can cause infections of the liver, heart and kidneys. As a pet parent, you definitely want to prevent that!

A finger toothbrush provides a gentle method of removing plaque and food debris from your pet’s teeth.

Therefore, brushing your pet’s teeth is a must! Brushing bacteria from food and other debris away from your pet’s teeth reduces your pet’s risk of getting periodontal disease. When brushing your pet’s teeth make sure to only use toothpaste made for pets. Never use human toothpaste on your pet. Some pets may need to work up to a regular toothbrush, until he or she is comfortable with one. In the meantime try using a finger toothbrush, which fits on the end of your finger and is less invasive.

Be Fresh Dental Care Solution is available at PetMeds

Also, consider adding a water additive to your pet’s water bowl. The solution helps kill plaque and bacteria every time your pet takes a drink. Although  water additives and brushing your pet’s teeth are two great ways to reduce the risk of  periodontal disease, check out the Dental Care Guidelines for more easy ways to take care of your pet’s teeth.

As pet owners ourselves we know how important your pet’s dental health is; that’s why we’re giving away 10 dental health kits filled with easy-to-use dental products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, dental wipes, treats and more!

To enter, visit the Pet Dental Month Sweepstakes on our Facebook page for your chance to win!

Have Fun Keeping Your Pet’s Teeth Clean

Filed under New Pet Products at PetMeds

TropiClean Fresh Breath Floss Ropeball helps keep your dog's teeth clean

We all know how hard it can be to take care of our pet’s teeth. Getting your pet to open wide enough to get a toothbrush, fingerbrush, or dental wipes into his or her mouth can be a challenge. And, if your pet doesn’t like the way brushing feels, or gets anxious, it is unlikely  you will get another chance to do it again. Read More »

How Puppy Dental Care Helps Reduce Future Dental Disease

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85% of dogs over the age of four have periodontal disease

It’s been estimated that 85% of dogs over the age of four have periodontal disease. That’s a lot of affected dogs! Luckily, you can help reduce the risk of periodontal disease by brushing your dog’s teeth.

Petosan Puppy Pack Dental Kit for Puppies and Dogs

Since periodontal disease can start so young, it’s important to start brushing your pet’s teeth at “puppyhood”. Yep, that’s right, you need to start brushing your puppy’s teeth! Prevention is the best remedy for periodontal disease so get your puppy a toothbrush and go to town. Better yet, use an all-in-one convenient pack such as the adorable Petosan Puppy Pack Dental Kit for Puppies and Dogs. The pack includes a double-headed perfect-sized toothbrush for your puppy’s mouth, toothpaste and even a finger cloth to loosen plaque and tartar buildup. If you are wondering why you may need a double-headed toothbrush, it’s because double-headed brushes really get into hard-to-reach places, which dislodges food particles before they can develop into harmful bacteria. Read More »

Keep the Car and the TV, I just want Rover and Bella’s Teeth Clean

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The best way to prevent canine gingivitis is proper dental hygiene, good diet, and an owner who is committed to keeping their pets healthy.

She called me crying and saying things that I was not able to quite understand at first. My cousin Jodi and I have always had a very close relationship. We went to the same schools and our families took summer vacations together. I was one year older than her and whenever she had any kind of trouble she would call and talk to me. This phone call was not the usual “my car won’t start” or “I need help with math” phone call. Jodi proceeded to tell me that she is about to walk out on a fifteen year marriage. She apparently felt that living with someone who completely ignored her wants and needs was the same as abuse. Since I didn’t know enough about this kind of thing and her husband is a friend of mine, I kept quiet and did what I believe is the best thing to do under the circumstance and remained quiet and listened. Just before she hung up she started reading to me a list of things that wouldn’t get done around the house if she just walked out. Among many things she was listing the most interesting one I felt was her concern that her dogs would miss their regular teeth cleanings. Even to me, someone who understands the importance of good dog oral hygiene, I still could not understand her concern with canine gingivitis at a time like this. Read More »

Can Pets Get Cavities?

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 Cavities may appear as erosions in the enamel of your pet's teeth

Everyone is familiar with the fact that people may often get dental cavities, but animal guardians may not realize that pets also may suffer from dental cavities, although it is certainly less common in pets than in people. Cavities may appear as erosions in the enamel of the teeth that may lead to pain and discomfort and dental decay. While cavities may be diagnosed on direct visual exam, it is often recommended to have dental x-rays as well to define the extent of involvement of the root of the tooth.

As with humans, pets’ cavities may be filled with various types of amalgams, however this service is often not provided by general veterinary practitioner, and so referral to a veterinary specialty dentist is often needed to have these cavities repaired. Following correction of the cavity, thorough dental hygiene is encouraged by using dental products such as CET pet toothpaste or CET dental rinse to help keep bacteria levels down, and tartar buildup at a minimum. Other natural products and alternatives include products such as Vetzlife, as well as Leba III.

Fractured Canine Teeth in Dogs

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It is not uncommon for dogs to fracture a canine tooth

It is not uncommon for large breed dogs in particular, to fracture their canine teeth. This will often happen during rough play or possibly when chewing on harder bones or other hard objects including rocks, stones, sticks, etc. Occasionally, blunt trauma to the face and/or dog fights may also be possible causes of the fracture of these sharp teeth in a dog’s mouth. The degree of discomfort of a fractured canine tooth will depend upon how deep into the tooth the fracture goes; if the fracture extends through the pulp and/or root of the tooth, these will typically be more painful.

Treatment of fractured canine teeth may or may not be necessary, as I will often leave the tooth alone if it is not painful and the fracture not deep. In other cases, sedation and complete tooth and root extraction is necessary to prevent secondary infection as well as persistent pain. In these cases, we will often use oral antibiotics for 7-10 days, as well as oral pain medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Rimadyl or Metacam during this time to reduce swelling and oral discomfort after tooth removal.

In holistic veterinary practice, I find the homeopathic remedies arnica and hypericum in 30c potency given once or twice daily for a few days also helpful in reducing pain naturally in those clients who prefer a more holistic approach.

Halitosis: Nothing to be Embarrassed About

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If your dog has bad breath, your first step is a veterinary exam

Halitosis or bad breath is a very common condition in our four legged canine friends. One time, on my second or third date with my college sweetheart, we were watching television and getting to know each other, when suddenly out of nowhere my date turned to me and said “Oh my, your dog has terrible bad breath!! Why is that? What do you feed that thing?” At the time I did not have an answer to give her and for the rest of the evening I felt terribly embarrassed by her question. I also had made the decision at that moment that this was most likely going to be our last date.  Call it immaturity on my part but I could not so easily get over my date calling my baby a “thing,” he had a name and that name was “Trooper”.

Read More »

My Pet Drools Excessively

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

Any pet with excessive drooling for an extended period of time should have a complete veterinary evaluation

One of the more common clinical complaints presented in the clinic are when animal guardians report that their pet drools excessively. By far the most common cause of this is the presence of some sort of dental or gum disease. Infected teeth and ulcers in the mouth are also common causes. In older pets, benign growths known as epuli, as well as oral cancer may also cause drooling. In certain cases, metabolic diseases including liver disease and nausea from any cause may also cause some pets to drool. Contact with irritants in the environment by overly inquisitive dogs and cats may also cause excessive drooling.

No matter what the inciting agent, any pet with excessive drooling for an extended period of time should have a complete veterinary evaluation to look for underlying causes.

Periodontal Disease in Pets

Filed under Dr. Dym's Vet Blog

It is estimated that over 80% of dogs and cats have some form of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen in middle-aged and older pets.  In fact, it is believed that over 80% of pets over the age of 3 have some form of periodontal disease. Clinical signs may include increased mouth odor, drooling, and difficulty eating hard food. On physical exam, findings may include red and inflamed, gums, increased dental tartar and diseased and/or loose teeth.

If left untreated, periodontal disease may lead to oral infection and tooth loss, as well as infection and/or dysfunction of other organs in the body, including infections of the liver, heart and kidneys. Treatment of most cases of periodontal disease involves ultrasonic tooth scaling and cleaning done under general anesthesia by the veterinarian.  In moderate to severe cases tooth extraction and antibiotic therapy may be necessary.  It is important for animal guardians to follow up with a proactive at home dental hygiene program, including frequent brushing of teeth in order to help prevent flare-ups of this condition in the future.  Products such as C.E.T. Enzymatic Toothpaste and PetzLife oral gel can help in this regard.

The Importance of Dental Care for Your Pet

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Since our pets are living longer, it is important to start proper dental care early.

The world of veterinary medicine, like human medicine, is getting more and more specialized. Veterinary dentistry is one of those specialty fields. Years ago, pets were lucky if a veterinarian even looked in their mouths. Today, we are performing routine dental exams and dental procedures on many patients, young and old. When difficult extractions, crowns, and oral surgery are required, your veterinarian can perform these services or refer you to a veterinary dental specialist.

Because our pets are living longer, we need to keep their mouths healthy well into their golden years. This starts early in life. Certain dog and cat breeds are predisposed to dental problems. If the owner is made aware of this early, much can be done to keep that poodle or Siamese mouth as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Small dog breeds are more prone to dental disease. It’s a fact. And, the toy breeds live a long time. Think about the tiny mouth and bone structure of a Maltese, for example.  If teeth in a little jaw suffer from tartar, decay, and bone loss, and that dog lives to be 18, we need to start taking care of that mouth early. Otherwise, the dog will lose many of its teeth before it’s a geriatric. Worse than that, the dog can suffer and the teeth can be a source of infection, disease, and organ damage. Infections in the mouth can travel to the valves of the heart, the kidneys, and other organs, causing irreversible damage.

The same is true of many cats, purebreds having more dental disease than domestic cats. In certain cats with stomatitis, a disease affecting the oral cavity, it may be necessary to perform difficult, full mouth extractions to save that cat from severe pain and inability to eat. This may sound extreme but it is the treatment of choice for severely affected cats. I have watched cats with painful, bloody, smelly mouths go through total mouth extractions, and wake up and eat a full meal the next morning! They are relieved of pain and can go on to even munch on dry food again. Without this oral surgery, these cats would not survive a normal lifespan.

Many clients laugh at me when I talk about taking care of their pet’s teeth. It’s important to come up with a plan that fits the pets’ needs and that the client will comply with.

Take a young golden retriever, a breed that generally has excellent teeth with little intervention. That dog may only need a quick brush or dental solution rubbed on its gums three times a week. If the owner and pup get used to this easy routine early, there will be better compliance as the dog needs more care later in life. Not so with the two year old Chihuahua that was just adopted from a shelter. When you tell the new owner that her new dog already has dental disease, and that Chihuahua is trying to bite you in the exam room, you have a challenge on your hands.

Once this dog is feeling more relaxed, this owner may be able to perform some dental care. There are some pets and some owners, however, where a dental plan is not going to work at home. These feisty little pups may need their teeth cleaned professionally once or twice a year to keep their mouths as healthy as possible.

This is particularly true of cats. You can teach many owners how to use a dental solution on their cats’ teeth and gums, but some cats are going to be impossible to treat. Same is true for giving that cat a pill. I sympathize. I owned one! In these cases, alternative medication routes are available and that cat will have to come into the hospital to have its teeth cleaned. You don’t want to get hurt and cat bites can be serious. Remember what I said about nasty cat mouths and infection? You don’t want that nasty mouth chomping on your finger sending you to the hospital. Use common sense.

At your annual exam with your pet, listen to your veterinarians’ recommendations and do what you can. Learn how much dental care is possible at home and try to include dental care in your veterinary budget. If your vet discovers serious dental disease, don’t let it go. Taking care of these teeth, oral infections, and extractions early can insure a healthier mouth in the future.

One last thought. Most pets hate human toothpaste. It smells funny, tastes funny, has the wrong consistency. Yuck! But that chicken flavored toothpaste. Yum. Now you’re talking!

Dr. Debora Lichtenberg, VMD, is a small animal and exotics veterinarian in Pelham, Mass. She shares her busy life with her husband, Andy, who manages the Animal Hospital; two rescue cocker wannabes; and a constantly changing number of felines. She is a regular contributor to Pets Adviser, a pet advice blog.