What would you do if your best friend had breath so foul that you couldn’t share
the same air space? What if he or she had brown slimy chunks of tartar and pale-green
pus hanging off his or her teeth and gums? And the very act of chewing made their
gums bleed?

As a veterinarian for many years, I have seen how our beloved pets suffer from
the painful symptoms mentioned above, yet they are unable to communicate the pain
they are experiencing. Often what most of us translate as fear and anxiety in our
pets is actually as an offset energy balance due to oral pain.

Veterinarians have found that the suffering that stems from dental disease does
cause pets to have nervous tendencies and a negative energy balance. Even those of
us who are extremely intuitive may miss dental disease and think our pet’s behavior
means something else. It is critical to go to the root of the condition to completely
free your pet from mouth pain and anxiety.

Whether human or animal, we all need a healthy mouth to live a full, balanced
life. As humans, we cannot just eat hard food with the expectation that it will make
our teeth clean and disease free. Nor can we eat raw food or chew bones to prevent
tartar. We need to brush and floss daily, along with seeing the dentist on a routine
basis. Indeed, doing regular preventative oral maintenance increases not only our
quality of life, but also our length of life.

The same is true for the four-legged pets in our households. Unlike many areas
of health and wellness, dental disease and its repercussions can be easily translated
between the species. If ignoring dental hygiene is bad for your oral health, it will
be detrimental for your cat or dog’s oral health, as well.

Pets benefit tremendously from simple dental practices like home brushing and
regular dental check-ups. Cats and dogs with less dental disease have a far better
quality and length of life than their counterparts with periodontal disease. Interestingly,
along with obesity, dental disease is the most common disease that four-leggeds will
encounter during their lifetime. What’s more, if left untreated periodontal disease
can eventually lead to even worse serious conditions such as diabetes, and heart,
lung or kidney disease.

Dental disease is preventable with regular and simple wellness care from their
two-legged owners.

What type of care does your pet need to prevent irreversible dental problems?
The gold standard is for your pet to have his or her teeth brushed at least once,
and preferably twice, a day. Pets that have painless, disease-free mouths readily
accept brushing. Ask your veterinarian to be sure your pet’s mouth is healthy before
starting a tooth-brushing program. A pet without oral pain will take to brushing
quicker than a 3-year-old child. If, for some reason, you cannot brush your pet’s
teeth, there are other options. Ask your vet what is best. Daily dental care is the
cornerstone of good dental health for all of us though, no matter how many legs we
have.

Doing regular home care with your pet can help you find oral problems, such as
broken or discolored teeth, early on. It is good to find these issues right away,
so treatment is manageable for your pet. You may even be able to spot certain kinds
of oral cancer while it’s still in a treatable stage. So keep checking your pet’s
mouth, it may just save his or her life!

In addition to daily home care, regular professional dental care is a must. Professional
care includes oral examinations, X-rays, dental cleanings and treatments.

An oral examination consists of three parts:

  • The first is an examination of the face, neck and jaw while your pet is awake.
    Lymph nodes are palpated and the temperomandibular joint (TMJ) is evaluated. Any
    broken, missing or discolored teeth are noted.

  • The next step is an examination under anesthesia. Your vet will find far more
    problems while your pet is a sleep. Some people advocate for attempting to clean
    pets’ teeth while they are awake. Yet any pet dentistry performed while the pet is
    awake is unsafe for the patient and the vet, and does nothing more than remove tartar
    from the crown of the tooth. If a pet is awake, it is hard for a vet to address the
    important area under the gum line, which can eventually progress to an infection
    if the area isn’t cleaned.

  • The third step involves dental X-rays. All of your pet’s teeth need to be viewed,
    not just those that appear visually abnormal. Up to 70 percent of oral disease is
    not seen until X-rays are taken. Imagine missing 70 percent of the problem by not
    doing a simple test that all of us humans take for granted! Once any dental problems
    in pets are identified, they can be corrected, leading to a happier, healthier pet.

  • There are as many approaches to pet dental care as there are to choosing your
    veterinarian, but the basic goal should be the same: prevent what you can by daily
    dental care, and find and fix what you can’t prevent.

The most important part of your pet’s dental care is to finding a veterinarian
and clinic that follows the American Animal Hospital Association Dental Care Guidelines.
For more information on these guidelines please go here.

Controlling dental disease is the cornerstone of your pet’s wellness healthcare
program. By attending to the mouth, you increase your pet’s quality of life and length.
So to all pet owners reading this article – happy home brushing!

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Dr. Kate Knutson is co-owner of Pet Crossing Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic in Bloomington and Alta Veterinary in Minneapolis. Dr. Knutson also is a contributing author to the American Animal Hospital Association Dental Care Guidelines. Pet Crossing is a full-service clinic and is one of the most experienced and technically advanced hospitals for pet dental services in the Midwest. Visit www.petcrossing.com. Alta Veterinary offers alternative treatments that complement traditional medicine for pets. Alta provides chiropractic care for pets who have bone deficiencies, acupuntcure to help relieve pressure spots on dogs or cats, nutritional guidance for animals who are over-or-under weight, massage therapy for pets with sore muscles, and behavior training for young or disobedient four-leggeds. Visit www.altaveterinary.org. Copyright © 2006 Dr. Kate Knutson. All rights reserved.

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