2009-06-14

Soft child-sized or pet-specific tooth brush for dogs and cats.

GOOFY GRINS NEED DENTAL CARE,TOO

KAREN RUDOLPH DHURRIE
FOR THE CALGARY HERALD

Their grins may be a bit goofier, but animal teeth require the same kind of care that human teeth do.

Keeping your dogs and cats smiling is best done through preventive care and maintenance.
Number one on the list? Once Daily, brush their teeth - there are 42 in dogs and 30 in cats.

"It allows the mechanical removal of plaque,which is layers upon layers of bacteria forming a community on the teeth. But keep in mind even if we do well with our own teeth, brushing and flossing , we still have to see a dentist,"
says DR.Terrie Faber, a veterinary dentist at Woodlands Veterinary Hospital and Animal Dental Centre.

Faber recommends using a soft child-sized or pet-specific toothbrush, and a toothpaste formulated for dogs and cats - They're usually meat or fish-flavored to encourage pets to accept the brushes.

To brush, lift your pet's lips, and brush gently around the outsides of the teeth.
Inside surfaces are fine left alone, Faber says,because about 80 per cent of plaque on their teeth is found on the outsides.

"The biggest mistake people make is trying to open the mouth and get in; they will fight it if you try and crank open their mouths," Faber says.

Occasionally,Faber will see carious lesions in dogs, but more common is a painful problem seen in cats called tooth resorption.
Tooth resorption stars with loss of dentin at, or below,the gum line that can eventually spread into the tooth and pulp canal,which contains blood vessels and nerves. Once started, the condition will always advance,so these teeth need to be extracted.

Little dog show more periodontal disease than a big dogs,because their teeth are larger in comparison to their jaws. Bacteria that from plaque get under a small dog's gums more quickly and can eat away at the tissue attaching the tooth to the bone.

Broken teeth are another common problem in dogs. Faber sees this often as a result of catching rocks and chewing bones.

Just as in people,broken teeth in a pet can expose the pulp, and the tooth can die and abscess,fester and spread,so a root canal or extraction is required to prevent the worst-case scenario.

The tricky part of dental disease is detecting it.
Most pets won't display any outward symptoms of oral pain.
A few may appear irritable or aggressive,have a change in appetite or difficulty chewing,and may react when their jaws are touched.
Smelly breath can also indicate problems.

"They don't show it. If you're wild and a pack animal,and you feel not-so-great,what happens to you if you mope around? You'll be pushed down in the pack hierarchy. Their instinct tells them they have to act normal,"Faber says.

"If this was you or I, we would be hysterical. Pets deal with it by not showing signs."

Pets should have a dental exam twice a year, and clearings as recommended by the vet.
Dental X-ray should also be done, because dogs and cats have most of their tooth structure under the gum line, and problems like abscesses can often only be diagnosed via X-ray.

As for diet,you can purchase food for pets aimed at keeping teeth healthier. Specially formulated dry food can help scrape the teeth when chewed, and there are chew toys and treats that might also help, but these should be used in addition to brushing, says Faber.

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