Imagine how your mouth would look and feel if you never brushed your teeth or went to the dentist. Dental disease is the most common health problem in pets, and causes chronic pain and illness in most pets older than 3 years of age. We interviewed Oscar, a 9-year-old dachshund, about his dental disease, his treatment, and how he is doing with a clean and healthy mouth.
The horror of pet halitosis
Oscar: I have an acute sense of smell, and my mouth odor was interfering with enjoying all the wonderful smells out in the world. Bad breath followed me everywhere, and my owner turned away if I wanted to snuggle close or lick her face.
Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital team: Bad breath is not normal in your pet and indicates bacterial accumulation in your pet’s mouth, starting at the gumline around a tooth, and can cause gum bleeding and tooth loss, or destroy tooth-supporting bone. Mouth bacteria can lead to infected teeth, or systemic infection, by traveling to internal organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.
The agony of pet dental pain
Oscar: My gums felt sore all the time, and chewing on one side of my mouth really hurt. My owner petting me near my muzzle also was painful, but I tried hard not to snap at her. I love food, and had a good appetite, so my owner may have thought my teeth were OK.
Our team: Dental disease progresses slowly, and animals can be stoic about chronic pain. Signs of dental disease and pain may be subtle, but your pet’s quality of life suffers, and pain can cause them to withdraw or become aggressive. Surprisingly, many pets will continue to eat well with dental disease, but you may notice a difference in their chewing or food preferences.
The initial pet dental exam
Oscar: My owner took me to Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital, where their team’s physical exam determined I had serious gum inflammation and dental tartar. The veterinarian recommended a dental cleaning procedure with possible tooth extractions. My owner was worried about anesthesia, but I doubt I’d be cooperative if I were awake for a full cleaning or dental X-rays. She was also concerned how I would eat if teeth were removed.
Our team: Most dental disease is below the gumline, and anesthesia is needed to completely examine your pet’s mouth, take dental X-rays, perform a deep cleaning, and remove any diseased teeth. We take precautions to pre-screen your pet prior to anesthesia, including preoperative lab work, to ensure the procedure will be as safe as possible. Dogs have 10 more teeth than humans, and removing diseased teeth helps them eat more comfortably.
The complete pet dental procedure
Oscar: I wasn’t allowed to have breakfast, which bothered me, but the Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital staff were so nice. The technician placed an intravenous catheter in my leg to help me stay well hydrated during the procedure, and the anesthesia process was smooth and peaceful. I can’t remember much, except slowly waking up in a comfortable place, with people telling me I was a good dog.
Our team: While Oscar was under anesthesia, we fully evaluated his dental status, and found widespread gum inflammation, and a badly fractured and infected tooth. We measured the gum pockets around his teeth, and took full-mouth dental X-rays to assess the teeth that were diseased and required removal. After calling Oscar’s owner and getting approval, we extracted seven teeth, and thoroughly cleaned all his teeth and gums. We continuously monitored his vital signs during the procedure, and kept him on intravenous fluids until he was comfortably awake. Oscar went home with follow-up pain medication and antibiotics to address the infection.
The at-home pet dental care routine
Oscar: I can’t begin to tell you how good I feel now that I have a healthy mouth. I’m behaving like a frisky young pup again. My owner has started brushing my teeth, and the beef-flavored pet toothpaste tastes great. She initially let me lick the toothpaste off her finger, then rubbed some on my teeth and gums, and slowly added a toothbrush. Gentle toothbrushing is now part of our daily routine. I don’t want a stinky and painful mouth again.
Our team: At-home dental care after a veterinary cleaning is part of essential maintenance, and can help prevent future dental disease. Most pets adapt to toothbrushing, but other dental products are available that help keep your pet’s mouth in good shape.
The Scripps Ranch Veterinary Hospital team is committed to your pet’s overall well-being, which includes a healthy mouth for a healthy body. If you suspect your pet has dental disease, don’t hesitate to contact us for a dental evaluation.