Better breath equals better health

By Karina Smith, RAHT at McPhillips Animal Hospital

It’s safe to say that everyone has heard or used the phrase “doggy breath” (or “kitty breath”), but have you ever thought about where that smell comes from or what it means about your pet’s health?

A foul smell coming from a dog or cat’s mouth is often a sign of infection. Dental disease (infection and inflammation such as gingivitis) in your pet’s mouth can lead to problems with other organs – such as kidney or heart disease. When a pet has infection in the mouth, you may notice his/her gums bleeding when they eat, or even if you were to touch them with your finger. If your dog chews rawhide, bones, or other similar objects, you may see blood on the object while your pet is chewing it. This means that while blood is escaping circulation, bacteria from the pet’s oral infection is gaining access.

So how do I prevent dental disease?

We all want the same things for our pets, for them to live long, happy, comfortable lives. Oral health has a huge impact on the total health and comfort of your pet. Here are 5 ways to improve your pet’s oral health, to keep them as healthy, happy, and comfortable for their whole long lives.

1. Teeth brushing. Many people don’t think to brush their pet’s teeth. Brushing your pet’s teeth every day (or even twice daily) is the best way to prevent tartar build-up, gingivitis, and infection in the mouth. It also gives you a chance to check their whole mouths for anything you wouldn’t otherwise notice (such as cracked or broken teeth, lumps or tumors starting to grow, etc). At McPhillips Animal Hospital, we offer many flavours of pet-specific toothpaste (it’s OK for them to swallow!) that uses enzymes to break down the plaque and bacteria on your pet’s teeth.

2. Oral care chews. There are many different types of oral care chews available. Many are high calorie, and can stick to the surface of the pet’s teeth, which will not do much to improve their oral health. At McPhillips Animal Hospital, we have Enzadent and C.E.T oral care chews available to both dogs and cats. These chews are treated with enzymes which work to break down the bacteria that cause plaque. They are a great addition to a tooth brushing routine, or can be given to a pet who may not tolerate having their teeth brushed.

3. Oral rinses and water additives. Some pets won’t tolerate having their teeth brushed, and are also not interested in the chews. For those pets we have options as well! Oral rinses such as Novaldent or CET Chlorhexidine work like a mouthwash for your pet. You can just squirt it onto the teeth to help kill bacteria. For more sensitive pets, we also carry water additives such as StrixNB. This is a product you would add to your pet’s fresh water each morning. Every time he/she takes a drink, the additive will aid in killing the plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.

4. Diet. Believe it or not, there are foods made specifically with oral health in mind. This is one of the easiest ways to help keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Hill’s t/d dog or cat food id a special diet that is formulated in a way that allows the pet’s teeth to penetrate and be scrubbed by the kibble, rather than having the kibble just break apart as soon as the pet bites into it. This is a great diet for any healthy pet, or can even be fed as a treat. Many pets find the Hill’s t/d to be very palatable.

5. Dental cleaning under anesthetic. If your pet already has moderate – severe dental disease and tartar build-up, they will need a dental cleaning under anesthetic to remove the tartar and any teeth that may be a source of pain or infection to your pet. When we do a dental cleaning on your pet, he/she will stay with us at the clinic for the day. We will start by doing a full blood work-up to ensure your pet’s organs are functioning well enough to undergo general anesthetic. We will then insert an IV catheter into a vein on your pet’s leg in order to administer IV fluids to him/her for the duration of the procedure. Once asleep, we will start by taking x-rays of your pet’s entire mouth – all the teeth and their roots, as well as the surrounding bone. This allows the veterinarian to assess each tooth and decide what ones are healthy, and what one(s) need to be extracted. Diseased teeth are extracted; the remaining healthy teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, and then polished. Polishing creates a very smooth surface on the teeth to aid in the prevention of new bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Once your pet’s dental procedure has been completed, he/she will be recovered in one of our ICU kennels where he/she will be monitored by one of our veterinary technicians until he/she is fully recovered. He/she will be able to go home that evening.

If you would like an assessment of your pet’s oral health, please call us at 204-589-8381. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have about your pet’s oral health, and help you choose the right product or products for you and your pet.

Happy Brushing!