Open Wide! Photo: Flavio Alexandre
By Rhonda Stallings, DVM, Arroyo Veterinary Hospital, Sonoma, CA
Of all the medical conditions that cause pain and discomfort, I find dental disease to be the number one problem. Our dogs hide their pain. They will continue to eat, drink, play and be their ever-loving selves even in the face of severe dental disease.
Have you ever had an infected tooth? Most people who have had one know that it really hurts, and that the pain often becomes so constant that we find ourselves in urgent need of a visit to the dentist. Dogs will live with this pain and can’t tell us that they hurt – and we don’t pick up on their discomfort unless we are really observant.
Dental disease not only causes mouth pain, but also can lead to heart, liver and kidney problems, as well as overall poor health because of the chronic bacterial load in the pet’s mouth.
I recommend you inspect your pet’s mouth at least once a month. Is there a noticeable odor? Do the gums look nice and pink or are they red and irritated? Are the teeth nice and white or are they discolored with plaque? Take a good look at their upper teeth near the back of the mouth. The big tooth is called the upper 4th premolar. This tooth is very prone to fracturing from chewing on hard treats, rocks, wood or even food treats that are harder to chew. I see dogs every day that have fractured this tooth and the owners never knew. This tooth will need to be removed or a root canal will have to be performed to stop the pain and the ongoing infection that will otherwise plague your dog.
Have your vet do a thorough dental exam and follow their recommendations for a dental cleaning including dental x-ray’s. Don’t fall for having the teeth cleaned with “anesthesia free” techniques. To do a true dental cleaning, your dog will need a general anesthetic, dental radiographs, cleaning and polishing.
If your dog needs to have one or more of the teeth extracted make sure your vet will give him the pain medication he needs and deserves.
February is National Pet Dental Health month. Call your vet and set up an exam for all your pets. You will love their fresh breath and will be so happy to know they will be free of pain!