Dentistry is Not Necessary or Your Pet

If you don’t mind rotten toilet breath in your face.  It’s not needed if you don’t mind pus and bacteria kisses, or that your pets blood stream receives a shower of bacteria and toxins every time he chews his food (assuming he chews).  Your pet may not show that he minds when his teeth are abscessed and painful, or the bacteria possibly causes a lung or kidney infection, but I have to think he does. 

Yeah, yeah, that’s a little extreme (the stuff I mentioned up there primarily occurs in advanced dental disease), but it comes to mind, as I sit here on this day, awaiting the icy winter storm of doom.  Dental month is looming on the horizon (not unlike this ice storm everybody is fleeing).  So I figured I’d talk about dental stuff for the next few blog installments. 

So, one of the things that most commonly elicits a sneer or a laugh is the mention of dental care for pets.  I get a lot of  “you know, Dr. Carroll, I grew up with dogs, and I don’t remember them ever having dental problems or having their teeth cleaned”.  I can’t speak for your experience, but I know that growing up, we had labs (which don’t seem to have the dental problems of smaller dogs, likely due to their love of chewing, and higher amounts of saliva) who lived out in the back yard, and never came in the house (thus we reeallly didn’t interact with them THAT much).  I suspect many of us had outdoor dogs, or that the bad breath was just attributed to “doggie breath”.  I don’t think vets at the time knew to look for dental disease (I remember the archaic dental tools they used as recently as 1990) .  

Fact is, it’s real, it’s gross and it can be painful.  For whatever reason, dogs need help keeping their teeth clean.  (I always think back and wonder how they survived in the wild, and here’s my solution to this one:  in the wild they eat prey animals, flesh and bone…which in my mind doesn’t quite stick to the teeth like chow.  Furthermore, through selective breeding, dogs no longer all look like wolves, coyotes etc with big mouths, big teeth, and lots of saliva to keep them clean.  Dogs look like pugs, and Shih Tzus, and Schnauzers with small crowded mouths and often nasty, nasty teeth; and they eat  the dog equivalent of cereal.)  I’m mostly talking about dogs in this one, I mentioned cat dentistry in the previous “How to Feed a Cat” post and I’ll post more specific cat stuff later…

If we ate cereal, every single day and NEVER brushed our teeth or had them cleaned by our dentist…what would they look like?   Probably a lot like what I see (and smell) multiple times a day when I look under the lips of a dog or cat.  It seems very logical to me, and that’s why I get my feelings hurt just a tiny bit when clients give me “the dentistry laugh/sneer”.   We’re not trying to be funny, we’re trying to do what’s best for the pet. 

Our pets are living longer than ever, and the lifestyles that we have chosen to give them has resulted in them needing additional care to keep their teeth healthy and clean. 

Dental care has come a long way on the human side (I suspect the cave men and the pioneers didn’t exercise proper dental hygene) and the pet side of things is following suit. 

So I think I’ll start with :

How I Take Care of My Pet’s Teeth

As many of you know, I live a fairly busy life with two kids, two dogs, a husband, this job etc.  So I think I juggle as much stuff as anybody out there, so I feel that I’m qualified to say “I know where you’re coming from”. 

In a perfect world, we should brush our pets teeth every single day.  There is a couple who come here with a little black and white dog  named Dolly who is around 10 years old.  When I lift her lip, she’s got the teeth of a 2 year old.  They’re beautiful and shiny and white and remarkable.  Her secret?  Her owner brushes her teeth daily after her walk.  It’s part of her routine.  Granted, this is a little retired couple with extra time, but THIS is the “gold standard” of dental care.  This is what we should strive for. 

Unfortunately, I don’t quite have it in me to provide gold standard care to Scully and Katelin, my illustrious pooches.  So here’s the “slightly tarnished silver” plan for busy families who still love their pooches, but can barely keep up with brushing their kids teeth…

My dogs diet:  hard dog food (Purina OM usually mixed with Natures Variety Prairie), with a little canned (Royal Canin Duck/Potato), a little no-fat-low-salt chicken broth, and maybe a little of what we had for dinner (minus any greasy fat, spices, etc).

My dogs meds (in case you were wondering):  Scully-fish oil capsule, Dasuquin (vitamin supplement for her joints), Previcox (NSAID for her joints…she’s having a hard time this winter)  Katelin: fish oil capsule

The dental plan:  ONCE a week, I brush their teeth.  I use CET toothpaste in poultry flavor (they both love it, but Katelin hates having her teeth brushed so she runs away).  The trick to brushing the teeth once weekly is that I have their teeth sealed with OraVet sealant  (http://www.oravet.us.merial.com/)  This is some waxy stuff that is put on when I get their teeth “professionally cleaned” and reapply weekly.  So:  I lay Scully on her back in my lap, brush her teeth, then apply the OraVet.  After that, she gets some sort of chew (either a Greenie, or rawhide).  Katelin is usually hiding in my bedroom, so I usually have to chase her down, then sort of “pin her” and brush her teeth with the small end of the CET toothbrush.  She hates it (I have to move quickly), and makes awful faces, but she still puts up with it and she gets her treat after I put in the sealant. 

Scully has the worst teeth of the two.  She used to need the anesthetic type of dental cleaning twice a year, but now, after using the sealant, she’s down to once a year.  Katelin has always been a once a year pooch.  I give myself Friday through Monday to seal and brush their teeth, so I have a good “window” to remember to do it. 

My dogs both also recieve the Pfizer “PPD Vaccine” .  ( http://www.pfizerah.com/Product_Overview.aspx?drug=PH&country=US&lang=EN&species=CN )  In a nutshell, it’s a vaccine designed to protect dogs from the type of bacteria that causes the really yucky periodontal disease that results in the teeth falling out.  As an aside, I have noticed my dogs have better breath overall since using this vaccine. Others have reported this side effect as well, but it’s not an “official” effect of the vaccine.  We usually recommend this vaccine for dogs who (either through genetics, or just dumb luck) are “prone” to having more severe dental disease.  We’ve been using this vaccine for about a year and a half now, and so far it looks promising (I’ve definitely seen improvement in some dogs with what I lovingly refer to as “toilet mouth”)  . 

Well, this is running long and apparently I need to stock non-perishable goods and blankets in the face of this impending ice terror from the north…so I’ll continue this tomorrow (assuming I can shovel my way out of my house…)

PS…I’m mentioning these products because I actually use and believe in  them, not just to sell products. (FYI)…

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