Healthy Mouth, Healthy Mutts!
By Dr. Ian Kupkee
If you're anything like me, you probably grew up hearing people say that a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's. It brought me great joy when the dogs I grew up with slathered my face with kisses. That "doggie breath" smell just came with the territory. It's perfectly normal, right?
Veterinarians now know that dental health is an essential part of the overall health and well-being of our patients. Here are some of the serious health problems you can avoid by keeping your pet's teeth clean and bright.
When bacteria build up on the teeth and gums, they go straight into the blood stream and ends up in the chambers of the heart where they infect the heart valves. Over time, this can cause the heart valves to not close properly, causing the heart to weaken as it works harder than it should to do its job. This process can lead to congestive heart failure, or CHF, which can be expensive to treat. Pets with CHF usually need medications and monitoring for their entire lives. While these medications can prolong their lives, they do not cure the condition. Pets with CHF usually only survive for a few years after they are diagnosed.
The same organisms that cause plaque and gingivitis eventually make their way into the kidneys where they will cause infections leading to urinary tract disease and kidney failure. . While there are treatments that can prolong the lives of pets in kidney failure, the prognosis is generally poor. As is the case with CHF, even the limited treatments that are available can be costly with uncertain outcomes. Kidney failure is particularly common in cats.
Urinary Tract Infections
Chronic bacterial gum infections caused by plaque and periodontal diease will also lead to chronic infections of the bladder and urinary tract. While seldom life threatening, these infections can cause our pets pain and discomfort. Pets with recurring urinary tract infections tend to lose control of their bladders, making them difficult to live with.
Upper Respiratory Infections
When bacteria take over our pets' mouths, they inhale germs with every breath. This can lead to infections in the lungs and upper airways, that if left untreated, can progress to pneumonia. Like urinary tract infections, these are not usually life threatening, but require medical treatments that can become costly. Often the first sign of an upper respiratory infection is a chronic cough.
If you've ever had a toothache that just won't go away, you've probably gotten grouchy after a few days. Pets that are in pain due to dental disease may lose interest in playing with toys, interacting with family members, or being around children. Worse yet, pain can lead to a shorter temper, which means your pet may be more likely to bite. Sadly, the most common victims of dog and cat bites tend to be children.
How Do I Know If My Pet Has Dental Disease?
A healthy mouth should contain pink gums and white teeth. While some staining of the teeth is normal, they should not look dull. If you see crusty, dark colored debris, blood, or pus along the gum line, it's time for a dental cleaning. Pay close attention to the back teeth, as they tend to accumulate tarter faster. Because of the location of these teeth, tartar buildup often goes unnoticed. Watch for any changes in eating habits. Pets that lose interest in food, especially dry food, are probably not being fussy or finicky. They are trying to tell us that it hurts to chew. This is especially true of cats. If all else fails, the nose knows. The next time Fido licks your face, have a sniff. Bad breath means it's time for a cleaning!
If you think your pet may need a dental cleaning, please give us a call at 305-595-1450 to schedule an appointment. You can also log onto http://www.sabalchaseanimalclinic.com and click on the "coupons" link for great deals on dental cleanings and first time visits.
Once Fido's teeth are clean and white, our staff can teach you how to keep them that way! You can also "like" us on Facebook to stay up to date on special offers, promotions, and fun, pet-friendly social events. We look forward to hearing from you soon!