My dog had terrible breath. It was so bad we took him to the veterinarian, who said that he needed to have his teeth cleaned. I never heard of cleaning a dog’s teeth. Can you explain?
Your veterinarian is right. Good breath may mean less chance for heart and kidney disease. What is not known by many is that dental disease is one of the leading causes of heart murmurs in dogs as well as kidney disease in cats. To understand the connection between heart disease and dental disease, we must first understand your pet’s dental health. When your dog or cat is born, it has a nice set of ‘baby teeth’ that are replaced before the first year of life by ‘adult teeth.’ These teeth need to last the length of your pet’s life and require much of the same care that our teeth require. Your pet’s teeth also suffer from many of the same diseases that our teeth do. Periodontal disease, malalignment, pulp disease, and tartar, are just some of the things that your veterinarian sees each day. Your veterinarian is right.
The connection between the overall health of the dog or cat and dentistry can be summed up in one word: BACTERIA! When teeth aren’t brushed, the plaque which accumulates each day on your teeth from everyday meals turns from an easily removable item to tartar. This concrete-like yellow to brown colored matter builds in layers above and below the gum line and cannot be removed by normal brushing. This cemented material is 90% bacteria. And since it exists below the gum line, the bacteria of tartar has instant access to the bloodstream. Think of the heart, liver and kidneys as the filters and pumps of the body. If clean operating fluid is used, few problems occur. But if dirty fluid - such as blood with bacteria - is used, these pumps and filters of the body become damaged or clogged. Much like the old oil filter in your car that is badly in need of changing, the kidney that has been filtering bacteria laden blood for 10 years is soon going to give out. This is why many older pets with bad teeth have problems like heart failure, kidney failure and liver problems.
Major internal organ problems are the most health-threatening items that bad teeth lead to, but not necessarily the only ones of importance. Many older or middle aged pets suffer from problems associated with their teeth such as joint pain, skin infections, mouth pain, and general lack of energy. Your veterinarian can either perform or refer you to a veterinarian who can do many of the things that prevent premature aging, pain, organ problems or mouth pain. Procedures such as orthodontics or braces, endodontics or root canals, restorations or crowns, and periodontal or gum treatment are among the many things being done today in veterinary medicine to improve and prolong a quality life in your pet. Much is even being done to encourage pet owners to brush their pets’ teeth to decrease the buildup of tartar. Toothpastes are available through your veterinarian that can be safely used on your pet.
So the next time your pet comes up to you for affection and you think it’s time for some mouthwash, lift up that lip. Look for tartar, broken or loose teeth, or bleeding gums. These simple steps can lead to a greatly improved lifestyle for you and your pet.