During my 37 years of practice, one of the most common complaints I have heard from clients is that their dog or cat’s breath stinks. Taking care of your pet’s oral hygiene is just as important as the other preventive things we do; such as vaccinating against diseases like Rabies.
By keeping your pet’s mouth free of tartar, you are accomplishing much more than simply giving your pet a nice smile and pleasant breath. Medically speaking, the bad breath is caused by bacterial infections in the gums where the tartar meets the gum line. These micro abscesses infiltrate with the same blood supply that circulates throughout your pet’s body and can harm organs such as the kidneys and/or liver.
A second reason for good dental care is to preserve your pet’s teeth. As tartar builds up on the teeth it will push up the gums and expose the roots (ouch!). Those teeth will usually either fall out on their own or need to be extracted. However, your pet’s teeth are very important for the first part of the digestive process whereby food is masticated before going to the stomach. I have found that dogs and cats that have missing teeth tend to gulp their food and then have digestive problems such as vomiting.
There are many ways to keep your pet’s teeth clean. Giving your dog or cat special chew toys or treats, or brushing their teeth with meat flavored toothpastes and rinses are among the most common approaches, and are available through your veterinarian and pet supply stores.
Unfortunately, despite the best tooth brushing efforts at home, the tartar buildup often leads to the need for a professional dental cleaning performed by specially trained animal hospital staff. A dental cleaning involves pre-operative blood testing with EKG, anesthesia, ultrasonic scaling and polishing, and possibly extractions performed by specially trained staff using professional dental equipment. As you can see, a professional dental cleaning is an involved and complex process.
Maltese Mouth BEFORE Professional Dental Cleaning
Maltese Mouth AFTER Professional Dental Cleaning
As a final note, please beware of the potential problems created by attempting to simply chip off the tartar. Chipping off the tarter creates grooves in the enamel that will allow the tartar to come back faster and in greater amounts. This is why it is important to polish the teeth after the scaling just like your dentist does at his office.
Taking care of your pet’s teeth can help to keep your pet healthy and ward off those nasty bad breath odors!
Dr. Russ Petro has been an integral part of the Valley Cottage Animal Hospital since 1980. Prior to his arrival in the Hudson Valley area, he practiced medicine in Puerto Rico and Massachusetts. Dr. Petro attended Iowa State University, majored in Biology, and was accepted into the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University during his junior year. He was awarded his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine in 1976 and his professional interests include surgery and reproductive medicine. Dr. Petro has received certification to perform bone-plating surgery for fracture repair.
Dr. Petro’s animal companions include three cats named Clooney, Stella and Morgan. A third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, he enjoys spending his spare time with his wife, Kim, and sons Carter and Hunter.
Russell Petro, DVM