Cat, dog dental care is critical |

Cat, dog dental care is critical

February is Pet Dental Health Month and Dr. Larry Corry, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, encourages dog and cat owners to regularly brush their pets’ teeth.

“Most people have no idea that dental health is so important to their pets, and that’s why Pet Dental Health Month is such a great idea,” Corry said in statement. “In fact, veterinarians report that periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed problem in dogs and cats. This can lead to painful infections of the mouth, and in severe cases these infections can spread and become life-threatening conditions”

Dr. Brook Niemiec, one of only 73 board certified veterinary dental specialists added, “it’s estimated that by the age of two, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal infections have been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other life-threatening disorders.”

“Our pet’s ancestors did not have periodontal disease, because their natural diet prohibited the accumulation of plaque,” according to Niemiec’s website, “However, changing our animals diet has introduced them to plaque and the associated gingivitis and periodontal disease.”

In addition, our pets are living longer, which allows the bacteria in the plaque to work longer and cause more disease, according to the site.

Until recently, even veterinarians did not realize how critical dental health had become in today’s changed pet environment. Another element of change has been over-breeding of specific dog types and purebred cats that are genetically prone to dental disease.

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Dr. Niemiec believes that the gold standard of home care is tooth brushing. To be effective, it must be performed at least three times a week, according to Niemiec’s site. Daily brushing is ideal. Niemiec’s site includes a video on how to brush.

“It has been reported that if you brush your pet’s teeth 3 times a week you will reduce plaque by 90%, and if you can only manage once a week by 75%,” according to the site.

An AVMA video featuring Dr. Sheldon Rubin gives step-by-step instructions on how to teach a dog or cat to accept a tooth brushing and demonstrates tools, treats and toys that help keep pet teeth healthy. It can be viewed at:

Other preventative measures include not feeding table scraps to pets and regular at-home oral checks. As your pet allows, open his or her mouth, sniff and look inside for warning signs: bad breath, red and swollen gums, a yellow-brown crust of tartar around the gum line and pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth. Take note if your pet has stopped eating, is pawing at the mouth or there is blood on toys. Any symptom indicates a veterinary check is needed.

Budgeting for a periodic veterinary dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia is imperative. Home care gets at surface plaque, but only with general anesthesia can a pet tolerate a complete screening, probing to find periodontal pockets, scraping and under gum cleaning.

“Sedation” or anesthesia-free alternative drug dentistry is not recommended and is illegal in some states. In anesthesia-free dentistry, the windpipe and lungs are not protected from particles generated during a dental cleaning. These particles are full of bacteria and, if inhaled, can result in pneumonia. Another difference is the length of effect. If a problem occurs under anesthesia, the veterinarian can turn off the anesthesia gas and the pet patient recovers quickly. Under sedation, drug effects generally do not go away until the drug is cleared by the system, which can take too long.

Pet Tooth Brushing Tips

1. Introduce brushing gradually. Avoid wrestling your pet. Keep sessions short and positive. Praise and reassure. Dip a finger into beef bouillon for dogs or tuna water for cats. Rub the soaked finger gently over the pet’s mouth and teeth.

2. Put gauze over the finger and gently scrub the teeth in a circular motion. 

3. Now introduce a pet brush or an ultra-soft children’s brush. Use only pet toothpaste. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gumline and brush in a circular motion, firmly stroking away from the tooth. Try to reach all tooth surfaces, but concentrate on the outside surface. Go slowly, be positive, use food treat rewards if necessary.

– Provided by the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and S.P.C.A. to help “Keep Tahoe Kind”!