Caring for your pet involves more than feeding, walking, and getting them vaccinated. While some pets, especially cats, may seem independent and easy going, it’s critical that you make their health and wellness an ongoing priority throughout their life. Many pet owners are unaware that their pets are suffering from dental disease, yet more than 80% will experience problems with their oral health by the time they are 3 years of age. Dental disease can vastly affect your pet’s overall quality of life, and can lead to painful infections, and organ problems. Our Otay Pet Vets team wants to ensure your pet maintains good dental health through all life stages, so we explain common pet dental problems, and the importance of dental care for your pet.  

Pet dental disease dangers

Dental disease can occur at any age and anywhere in your pet’s mouth, including the teeth, gums, and supporting oral structures. Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition affecting pets and begins immediately following a meal, when plaque buildup hardens into cement-like tartar that allows bacteria to become trapped in and around your pet’s gumline. The tartar and trapped bacteria is often the culprit for your pet’s unpleasant breath. Many pet owners become used to their pet’s bad breath and consider it normal, unaware that this is often the first sign of a more serious dental problem. Oral bacteria can leach into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, causing potentially life-threatening infections, and damaging your pet’s organs, including the liver, kidney, heart, and brain. Unlike humans, pets rarely develop cavities, but they are at risk for other dental problems, including tumors, cysts, broken teeth or roots, palate defects, and abscessed teeth. Dental disease can be painful, and subtle changes in your pet’s daily routine may be a clue that something is wrong in their mouth. Dental disease signs include:

  • Behavior changes (i.e., irritability, refusing hard treats, or increased hiding in cats)
  • Decreased appetite 
  • Blood on chew toys
  • Abnormal chewing
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Dropping food from the mouth while eating
  • Excessive drooling
  • Swelling around the mouth
  • Nasal discharge

Importance of regular preventive care for your pet

Yearly, or more frequent, veterinary wellness exams are critical to prevent painful dental disease in your pet. We understand that finding the time and money to schedule your pet’s veterinary care can be difficult, so we offer our Pet Care Rewards Member Program to help you budget your pet’s preventive care and wellness needs. 

An oral checkup is always part of your pet’s wellness examination at Otay Pet Vets, and our veterinarian will discuss your pet’s history, lifestyle, and home behaviors to develop an overall picture of their health. We will examine your pet from nose to tail, and may recommend blood work to evaluate your pet’s organ health, and ensure they are free of systemic infections. We may also recommend a complete dental examination and cleaning under anesthesia. In this case, we will order pre-anesthetic blood screenings to ensure your anesthetized pet’s safety during their dental procedure. 

Understanding a professional dental cleaning for your pet

General anesthesia procedures may be worrisome for pet owners, but you can rest assured that our veterinary team will ensure that multiple safety measures are in place to protect your pet during their dental cleaning. Anesthesia allows our Chula veterinary team to perform a safe, pain-free, and in-depth oral examination and cleaning on your pet.

Your pet will first be examined through computed tomography (CT) to give our veterinarian a quick 3D image of your pet’s oral cavity. A CT scan is a highly sophisticated imaging technique that produces images of your pet’s hard and soft tissue, and allows our veterinarian to clearly identify any oral problems quickly, and efficiently plan for your pet’s dental procedure, which includes:

  • Specialized blood pressure and heart monitors (i.e, electrocardiogram [EKG])
  • Specialized warming pads and blankets to maintain body temperature
  • Intravenous fluids to support their organs and blood pressure during the procedure
  • Dental X-rays to examine teeth below the gumline
  • Scaling and cleaning of the teeth and gums with specialized dental tools, including an ultrasonic scaler
  • Gentle probing around each tooth to look for pockets or infected teeth
  • Polishing with a fluoride-infused polish to prevent plaque buildup
  • Extraction of loose or damaged teeth
  • Pain medication 

Preventing dental disease in your pet at home

Incorporating a home dental health care routine is the best dental disease prevention between veterinary visits. Although twice daily toothbrushing is ideal, brushing your pet’s teeth at least three times a week is still beneficial—the best dental health routine is the one that is realistic for your lifestyle and limitations. Ensure you use a Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)-approved toothpaste, and never use human toothpaste, since most contain ingredients, like xylitol, that are deadly to pets. For finicky pets, or those who will not accept regular toothbrushing, consider trying VOHC-approved dental treats, rinses, or chews daily. Consistency is key to successful home dental care for your pet.

Our Otay Pet Vets team is committed to ensuring your pet’s teeth remain healthy throughout their life. We strongly recommend regular wellness visits that include dental care, in addition to a home toothbrushing routine, to ensure your pet’s oral health is on the right track. Call our office if you have any questions about your pet’s oral health, or to schedule a wellness and dental health appointment.