Do you brush your dog or cat’s teeth daily or at least weekly? Do you use dental products such as water additives or chews regularly? Would you miss seeing your dentist and dental hygienist on a regular schedule each year? Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month?
Why start with all the questions? Because there might be a ticking time bomb lurking in your pet’s mouth – can you see or smell it? I’ll confess that I don’t brush my dog’s or my cats’ teeth. Part of it is time or the lack thereof, but the other is personality – none of the three furry creatures that live in my house would be willing to have their teeth brushed without great struggle and stress. So it is okay to answer no to regular brushing, but if you are not brushing or using some pet dental care products, then your cat or dog may require more regular dental cleanings to keep their oral cavity in good shape.
Time of a different kind also plays a role in our pets’ oral health. A year is a year to a human, but our set calendar does not match the physiologic time clock affecting your pet. As an adult cat or dog, they are aging roughly three years for every six months of human time. If you only landed in your dentist’s chair for cleaning and evaluation every three years, there would be a whole lot more disease to be dealt with – fillings, root canals and more.
Human dentists do a really great job at educating us about the benefits of preventative dental care. I would much rather have my teeth cleaned than experience another root canal. As veterinarians, we strive to educate our pet owners about dental health care, but we run into resistance to the investment of that care. Why? Because there is a cost involved, because there is anesthesia involved, because growing-up we never did that for our family pets, because you the vet is just trying to sell me something – there are a plethora more, but I’ll take those top four.
1) Yes, there is a cost involved –the cost of pet care comes directly from our discretionary income after all the other bills, debts and demands are met. However, the cost will be definitely greater for your pet in terms of pain, infection and a shortened life span. And, it will have greater impact on your wallet if it becomes an emergency dental procedure.
2) Yes, there is anesthesia involved – and it’s not the big scary deal that many would have you believe. Anesthesia lets a pet be stress and pain free while allowing the veterinary staff to do the most thorough evaluation, cleaning and treatment possible.
3) Yes, times have changed and pet owners have pushed and demanded that veterinary medicine in many areas offer the same level of care that they themselves receive, including dental care. We’ve come a long way in the past 20-30 years in helping pets live longer because of preventative care, including preventative veterinary dental care with regular cleanings when needed.
4) No, we veterinarians are not just trying to upsell unsuspecting owners into costly procedures. Our education, whose foundation is evidence-based medicine, teaches us through training and experience that preventative and interventional dental care really do make a difference. And, preventative care always is a better course than interventional care in terms of cost, stress for a pet and more.
So avoid any oral ticking time bombs and get your own and your pet’s or pets’ oral health assessed regularly. February is National Pet Dental Health Month — and while we believe every month is Pet Dental Health Month, we and other veterinarians do offer a variety of specials to help encourage owners to flip the lip and take a look at what’s in there with their veterinarian or veterinary technician.