Monday, February 20, 2012

Pet Dental Care

Written by: Lori Blauert owner of IB Pet.

February is Pet Dental Awareness Month! 
So what better time to talk about your pets dental health.  Did you know that an estimated 80% of pets in the U.S. experience gum disease by the time they reach their 3rd birthday?  And when the condition is left untreated it can become a very costly visit to the vet.

My dogs are almost 5 and 6 years old and have never had their teeth cleaned by the vet.  I feed them a raw diet, offer them raw bones and chews a few times a week and will brush their teeth with water and baking soda about once a month.  They've had anesthesia free cleanings done once a year for the last two years by Heidi with Teeth N Tails and I will also occasionally use a scaler to remove any build up from the teeth.  The photos below are what my dogs teeth currently look like today.  I just brushed their teeth prior to taking these photos and you can see a little bit of blood on Cali's lower gums (I may have brushed a little too hard) but over all they both have very healthy teeth and gums for middle aged dogs.
Cali (5 year old female golden retriever)
Tanner (6 year old male golden retriever)
Unfortunately, many pet owners don't start good oral hygiene habits with their pets until it's already too late.  Once the bad breath starts...the problem as already begun and bad breath is the least of your problems. Periodontal disease (gum disease) is quite common in dogs and cats, and is caused by food building up along the gum line.  When the build up is not removed it combines with saliva and forms tartar or calculus.  Tartar is irritating to the gums and the gum line will become inflamed.  This inflammation is known as gingivitis and gingivitis is what causes the bad breath.  After an extended period of time, the build up under the gum will separate the gums from the teeth. Spaces will form under the teeth, fostering bacterial growth.  Once this occurs your pet has irreversible periodontal disease. This usually leads to bone loss, tissue destruction and pus formation in the cavities between the gum and teeth.

Periodontal disease is not the only dental issue your pets may face.  Broken (fractured) teeth and cat cavities are also very common in dogs and cats.  Dogs can get a fractured tooth by chewing on rocks or experiencing trauma.  A dogs teeth are designed to cut through bone, but if their teeth are week due to poor oral hygiene they can crack and break even from the dog chewing on a hard bone.  Treatment options will depend on the extent of the fracture but often times the tooth will need to be extracted and/or capped and just like humans, dogs can get metal crowns or caps following the root canal procedure.  And you don't want to know what something like that would cost you!

Cat cavities are called Felilne Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL).  FORLs develop on the sides of the cat's teeth near the gum line.  Bone-eating cells will destroy the tooth and eat their way down to the root.  They are not always visible because they are covered by gum tissue and often times plaque or tartar.  Infection sets in and it is very painful for your cat. When this condition goes untreated, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream causing damage to the kidneys and heart.  Treatment is usually surgery and tooth extraction. 
Periodontal Disease

Some symptoms to look out for:
  • Bad Breath
  • Inflammation or reddening of the gums
  • Bleeding of the gums
  • Tooth Loss or wobbly teeth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the face 

What can I do to keep my pets teeth healthy?
1) Feed a raw diet
Contrary to popular belief, kibble DOES NOT clean your pets teeth.  Would you eat Captin Crunch to clean your teeth? A raw diet is what nature intended for your dog or cat too eat.  The live enzymes found in raw meat naturally clean the teeth and alleviate the bacteria in the mouth that caused plaque and tartar to form.  When dogs and cats tear through meat and crunch on  raw bones it helps to loosen and break off any build up on the teeth.
2) Offer plenty a fresh water 
Be sure to always offer your pet plenty of fresh drinking water especially after meals to help rinse away any food residue from the mouth.  

3) Brush and inspect your pets teeth regularly
Peak in your pets mouth regularly.  Your pet's gums should appear pink and healthy (not red or puffy) and make it part of you routine to brush your pets teeth.  You can purchase a pet dental kit at your local pet supply store.  Many come with a tooth brush, finger brush and tooth paste.  However tooth paste is optional.  Some can contain unnatural ingredients so I sometimes opt to skip the paste.

From my experience cats seem to be a little bit more difficult than dogs to clean their teeth so here is a great video with some pointers on how to clean your cat's teeth.

4) Offer your pet raw bones and chews
When dogs and cats chew through raw bones it help to loosen and break off any build up on the teeth. The live enzymes found in raw meat naturally clean the teeth and alleviate the bacteria in the mouth that caused plaque and tartar to form.  Chews such as pig ears, bully sticks and rawhide are also great for removing buildup from the teeth, however your kitty might not be as interested in them as your dog.

5)Ask your groomer to brush your pets teeth
If your pet won't sit still for you long enough to allow you to brush their teeth your groomer may be able to help.  Many groomers are very experienced with handling dogs (even difficult ones) and may be able to brush your pets teeth for an additional charge at your next appointment.

6) Look for an Anesthesia Free dental clinic in your area
Check with your local pet store or groomer to see if they know of any anesthesia free dental clinics in your area.  Many pet supply stores and groomers will hold dental cleaning clinics at their shop. These clinics are usually done by a trained individual who is very good with pets and can clean your pets teeth without putting them under anesthesia.

In San Diego,  I've used Heidi from Teeth N Tails multiple times for my 2 dogs and 2 cats and I've been very pleased with her service.  She is reasonably priced and even does house calls!  Contact Heidi at (760) 434-6254 or by email at

7) Take your pet to the vet at least once a year for a check up

Since some of the oral diseases in pets are hard to see, it is important to get your pets teeth checked out by your vet at least once a year.  Your vet may also suggest to have your pets teeth cleaned which unfortunately can be VERY costly but once it's too late it is sometimes the only option. 

With February being Pet Dental Awareness Month, we are giving away FREE Primal Raw Bones to our delivery customers and customers that visit our store.  Please visit IB Pet and ask to try free raw bone!  Also we offer samples of our raw frozen diets year round.

Phone : 619-822-1610


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