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The Whole Pet – February 2015

Pet Dental MonthSo February is pet dental health month. It’s also the month that we celebrate Valentine’s Day. Pledging love on a single day. Brushing our pet’s teeth. Shouldn’t both be done more often?

I have been fortunate to always have an interest in dentistry. It is one of my many passions with veterinary medicine and I am determined to make more and more people aware of how they can help their pet live a healthier life and be an even better pet to their owners.

Think of how your dog or cat uses its mouth. Not just for eating but grooming, offense, defense, its voice! It’s the start of the amazing digestive system. Pets use their mouths as tools to pick up and move things. Such a multifunctional tool that needs care.

Think of how humans used to care (or not) for their mouths. Dentures, malocclusions, cavities were the norm. Human dentists in the late 1970s decided to change that. Dentistry became the most popular doctorate. We now have kids without cavities, geriatric adults with all their own teeth and beautiful smiles.

What do we need to do to get the same for our pets? Educate. Start young. Brush teeth. Don’t breed dogs with awful malocclusions. I like to compare brushing our pet’s teeth with that of brushing a two year old child’s teeth. It is not easy but as the saying goes, “you only brush the teeth you want to keep”. Kids have paste with taste, musical tooth brushes, fun little timers. Prizes and goodie bags when they go to the dentist. It works. My cats love the taste of the chicken flavored tooth paste.

The more you do at home as an owner, the less we have to do at the office.

Pets should still get their mouths professionally evaluate and cleaned just like we do. In veterinary medicine, it is termed COHAT. That stands for Complete Oral Health Assessment and Treatment plan. Just like us, it is important to look at the entire oral cavity from tip of the tongue, all the teeth to the tonsils. Half of the tooth is below the gumline.

This is where my take home tip comes in….FULL MOUTH DENTAL RADIOGRAPHS and documentation is a must. As much as we may want to gag when we are getting oral x-rays on ourselves, would you ever go to a dentist that didn’t have them as part of your oral care assessment. Would you ever get a broken bone worked on without a series of radiographs? NO!
Pet Dental MonthWith teeth being so important, they need the same standard of care. Dental radiographs are a high yield test with the percentage of abnormalities detected is over 60%! Our pets have a high tolerance of pain with their teeth and we need to help them. It is better for our pets to have a pain free mouth vs teeth. Hopefully in the future, with education and home compliance, they can have both.

In the past six months, we have been fortunate to help new patients that needed dental care badly. One had a fistula (a hole!) in his face due to an abscessed tooth that was only partially removed. The cat had ten pieces of fractured roots left to smolder in his mouth. All these cases did not have radiographs done which would have helped solved the challenges that these animals were facing daily. Dental radiographs are not a part of every veterinarian’s tool box when they perform a dental but these cases sadly demonstrate the need for them. They are an investment to purchase the unit and a learning curve to interpret them but they are absolute necessities to do the job right.

There is a fantastic veterinary dentist that has a great website full of information and recommendations. I recommend it to my clients almost daily! Please check it out at

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