"Dirty mouth? Clean it up!" If only it were as simple as popping a piece of gum to our pets to maintain good oral health (as the Orbitz commercials would have us believe)... In reality, our pets need just as much daily dental care as we do, but far too often, this aspect of their health goes unchecked in between vet visits.
Dental disease may seem like a localized process, but it can have very serious effects on multiple organ systems in our pets. Pets with sub-optimal oral health may suffer from chronic pain, and they are at risk for developing kidney disease, heart disease, and body-wide infection, just to name a few. Some diseases, like Diabetes Mellitus, may become harder to regulate in the face of a dental infection. Most importantly, pets with dental disease have decreased quality and quantity of life than animals with good oral health.
One reason that dental disease is rampant in our pets that it is usually not visible to owners. The trouble is, animals often do not show us in human terms that they have inflammation, pain, fractures, or even major infection in their mouths. The signs of dental disease can be very subtle. Some of the more common signs noted by owners include bad breath, decreased energy, decreased appetite, change in eating habits, and weight loss. Changes in behavior in older animals are often attributed to "getting older" or "slowing down" when in fact, many of these pets are suffering from dental disease and seem to act much younger once their mouths have been treated!
So, if the signs are subtle, how do we monitor for dental disease and pain in out pets? As Dr. Loomis outlined in the previous blog, there are ways to look in your animals' mouths safely. If you are unable to look in their mouths, please bring them in for a check-up. A thorough oral exam is always part of annual wellness exams. For senior pets (age 8 and older) we recommend head-to-toe exams every 6 months, to catch things like early dental disease early. Once dental disease is detected, there are many ways to go about treatment, depending on the severity of the condition. Stay tuned for more information on dental cleanings and treatments in our upcoming blogs...