Dental care for pets

Oral hygiene is as important for dogs as it is for humans.

  • Feb. 14, 2016 9:00 a.m.
Veterinarian does an exam of this dog's teeth.

Veterinarian does an exam of this dog's teeth.

Dr. Moshe Oz/Contributor

February is the month of dental health promotion. Life is full of humps and bumps and we often need to face sudden and unexpected medical crises.

However, some medical issues are preventable with the right precautionary care. Dental hygiene is one , if not the most important aspect of veterinary preventative medicine.

Oral hygiene has both medical and cosmetic significance. Being aware and proactive about your pet’s oral hygiene can positively influence your pet health and longevity.

We humans, brush our teeth at least twice a day in order to keep them healthy.  Dogs and cats have teeth just like we do, and the same conditions that lead to our tooth and gum problems also occur in our pet’s mouth. Oral hygiene has perhaps been the most neglected aspect of pet health care.

Researches showed that 90 per cent of pets over two years of age have significant mouth disease and 50% of them require immediate attention.  Small breed dogs such as Yorkshire Terriers, Toy Poodles, etc. are more prone to tartar buildup. Dental disease in pets goes beyond bad breath. Your pet can also be affected by serious oral health threats that can have an impact on more than just its mouth.

When a dog eats, food, saliva and bacteria will stick to its teeth. This combination of food, saliva and bacteria is called plaque. The bacteria in plaque produce toxins, which cause inflammation and breakdown of the gums and tissue surrounding the teeth. Inflammation of the gum around the teeth is called gingivitis. When plaque stays on the teeth for long enough, it will harden and turn into tartar also known as calculus. Tartar allows more bacteria and debris to accumulate, which makes inflammation of the gums worse.

If this process goes unchecked, the supporting structures of the tooth degenerate. This process is known as periodontal disease. The gums become separated from the tooth (periodontal pockets) a condition, which might lead to tooth abscess (formation of pocket of pus around the tooth’s root) and eventually to loss of the tooth. Dental diseases are causing pain and discomfort, bad breath, and bleeding from the gums.

The dental disease significance goes way beyond the oral health. A pet with an advanced oral disease is at risk of developing multiple medical problems because of shifting of the bacteria from the mouth to various internal organs through the bloodstream. Severe dental disease can lead to life threatening conditions. The main target organs at risk are the lungs, heart, kidney, and joint infections.

So what can you do to maintain good oral health of your pet? The best way to prevent tartar accumulation and gingivitis is daily brushing. You can use a baby tooth brush but I personally find that the easiest is to use pet oriented toothbrush that you can wear on your finger. You should always use pet toothpaste and not human toothpastes, nor salt or baking soda. Toothpastes foaming action is irritating and all of these substances can cause illness if swallowed.

Pets that are getting fed by canned food are more prone for developing dental diseases.

In general, feeding the dog a commercial dry food, is better when it comes to dental health and delaying dental plaque formation.  Furthermore,  certain premium pets food companies make a special dental diets. These diets come in form of kibbles. The way the kibbles are made preserve the teeth,and the dental plaque formation is much slower. I recommend these dental diet, as a primary maintenance diet, for any healthy pets that do not require any other special diet for a different medical issue.

Many people still believe in giving their dog, cow’s bones to dogs to chew on. The concept that chewing on the bone cleans the teeth may be true, however, the risk of tooth fractures does not worth the potential benefit.

The best way to treat gingivitis and plaque accumulation is with a professional veterinary cleaning. This procedure requires general anesthesia. While a dog is under anesthesia, the teeth are cleaned and polished in the same manner that a human dentist cleans and polishes people’s teeth. The teeth are cleaned both above and below the gum line. In some cases, where there is an abscess or severe infection under or around the tooth root, a tooth may need to be extracted. Most dogs do very well after having teeth pulled. A great many of them can even continue to eat dry food after losing a large number of teeth.

Providing your pet with good oral care is extremely important to its health. Unfortunately some pets are reluctant to cooperate so it can can be very challenging. An annual oral exam is recommended. Your veterinarian will assess the teeth condition and will consult you about specific ways to improve and maintain your pet’s oral hygiene.

Dr. Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna.







Kelowna Capital News

Just Posted

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

The administrative headquarters for the Central Okanagan Public Schools. (File photo)
COVID-19 exposures confirmed at 2 Central Okanagan Schools

The infected individuals are self-isolating at home

Farming Karma is set to release a line of fruit vodka sodas soon. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Kelowna fruit growers expanding line of beverages

Farming Karma is expanding from fruit sodas to fruit vodka sodas

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Jane Linden
KCR: Volunteering keeps you active

Kelowna Community Resources shares stories of its volunteers in a weekly column

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read