Th Tail Wagging 01

Tail-Wagging Tips

Sept. 1, 2008
A home care routine may begin at any stage of your pet’s life, as he or she will learn to adapt to it.
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A home care routine may begin at any stage of your pet’s life, as he or she will learn to adapt to it.

by Anastasia L.Turchetta, RDH

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three. A healthy oral environment is as important for our pets as it is for our patients. Common problems among dogs include periodontal disease and fractured teeth, while cats are more prone to resorptive lesions. Because dentitions vary between canine (dog) and feline (cat), we must identify the characteristics not only to provide home care but also to assist with maintenance via veterinarian preventative oral care. This article will address both canine and feline dentition differences, common oral problems, and affordable options for acquiring treatment throughout your pet’s life.

Let’s begin with our finicky felines! Kittens have 26 deciduous teeth, which erupt around three weeks of age. At three to four months, the deciduous teeth have been replaced with the permanent teeth plus four more for a complete dentition numbering 30. Periodontal disease is a concern; however, a more pressing oral condition — resorptive dental lesions — occurs in 28 percent of domestic cats at least once in their nine lifetimes. Symptoms to observe are isolated swelling of the gum above one tooth, changes in eating habits, or pawing at the face or mouth.

Man’s best friend (canine) has 28 deciduous teeth that erupt around four weeks of age. Surprisingly, 42 permanent teeth, 20 uppers and 22 lowers, will take their position as the permanent dentition at age four months. Although smaller breeds are susceptible to periodontal disease, all dogs benefit from routine preventative prophylaxis via your veterinarian. A lifestyle or habit of chewing things that are too hard contribute to fractured teeth. Risk factors include stones, golf balls, ice cubes, table legs, cage doors, commercially available cow hooves, and nylon bones. The latter has been associated with fractures of the essential cornerstone tooth — the canine. Treatment options will vary, depending upon the severity of the break and which tooth is affected.

What is our role in pet oral care? Begin a regimen at home that consists of brushing your pet’s teeth and visually assessing your pet’s mouth looking for unhealthy signs such as swollen gums, unusual growths or bumps, broken teeth, yellow or brownish color on teeth, and persistent bad breath. Since human toothpaste is not recommended as it may upset your pet’s stomach, specially formulated toothpaste may be found in most pet centers or at your veterinarian’s practice.

How do you start a routine? Dipping your finger or gauze in beef bouillon for dogs or tuna water for cats may be the smooth transition preferred before introducing a soft bristle toothbrush and paste. Personally, I started both of my Siberian huskies early — Dakota at three months (she is now 12 years old) and Nahla, my rescue husky, was introduced to oral care at one year (she is now two). Both have had their own toothbrush and have grown to enjoy the routine, which includes flossing! It has become a battle to get them out of the bathroom for me to continue to my own home care regimen.

Dakota, the author’s pet, receives a flossing.
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Keeping in mind that you can teach an old dog new tricks, a home care routine may begin at any stage of your pet’s life, as he or she will adapt. Your veterinarian should provide yearly physical exams, vaccinations, or blood work in addition to the recommendation of preventive prophylactic treatment. Pets are given general anesthesia for this service (as with most dental services) due to the fact that movement is prohibited in order to accomplish the task at hand.

Consider pet insurance as an investment for your pet’s health to assist with accident, illness, vaccines, etc. Resources to check out are Veterinary Pet Insurance or Pets Best, which will also offer quotes for your pet and explain coverage, such as preexisting conditions. For example, some plans will not cover dental care as it is not contained within the accident or illness coverage; however, dental may be covered if caused by an accident or injury that warrants either a root canal or extraction.

Educating our fellow pet-loving patients on the importance of pet oral care and how to effectively gain it via the use of their own CareCredit card is well received. Most individuals are not aware of the crossover benefit available to them, similar to discovering this opportunity in acquiring their own desired treatment in dentistry. The affordable plan designed for your budget complements those who either do not have pet insurance or do not need the high interest rate from their consumer credit card. One pet may be a financial struggle for an owner in obtaining veterinary care; visualize the financial strain for those who have two or more pets. This financial option has granted me peace of mind, knowing that I can now provide both dogs with their medications and preventative care without further delay.

Pets are susceptible to periodontal disease, dental resorption, and fractured teeth. As pet owners, our role is to become familiar with their dentition and initiate a home care regimen removing or disturbing the biofilm and screening the surrounding oral environment for abnormal tissue color or swollen areas. We should also relay this role to fellow pet owners, whether they are patients, friends, or family. Realizing that pet health care may pose a financial difficulty, we can utilize a pet insurance plan as well as patient financial options. Paralleling the significance of living longer, healthier human lives via managing our oral environment, five years may be added to your pet’s life through proper oral care.

About the Author

Anastasia L.Turchetta, RDH, has been a practicing clinical hygienist for 19 years. She earned both dental assisting and dental hygiene degrees at Allegany College. Speaking both nationally and internationally and maintaining memberships with NSA, ISN, SCN, ADHA, and ADA (American Diabetes Association), Anastasia has written for several of our industry’s publications and newsletters. She is a feature author in Conversations of Health and Wellness and creator/author of “Just a Cleaning?” an interactive assisted hygiene guide based upon her coaching niche.