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Dental Tips for Pets

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Vet cleanings involve more than floss and fluoride

In a 2010 study by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), about 25 percent of dog owners had purchased dental products within the past year. While 32 percent of dog owners said they brushed their pets’ teeth, most did so only a few times a year — not enough to truly make an impact. Over time, that tartar buildup requires professional care at the veterinarian’s office. Your vet will begin by assessing the degree of gum disease, ranging from stage 1 through stage 4, before scheduling a cleaning.

At stage 1, you may notice some tartar or plaque buildup. Stage 2 indicates tartar, plaque buildup and severe gingivitis, along with bleeding and inflammation along the gum line. At stage 3, there may be gingival recession, but the effects of periodontal disease may still be reversible. At stage 4, pets suffer from severe gingival recession, root exposure, mobile teeth and even tooth loss. The price difference between a stage 1 cleaning and a stage 4 cleaning can be $1,000 or more.

“Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t take really good care of their pet’s teeth,” says DeAndre Upton, a registered veterinary technician with Eagle’s Landing Veterinary Hospital in Georgia. “When owners come in and say, ‘My dog needs their teeth cleaned,’ [pets] are at a stage 3, stage 4.”

On the day of their dental cleaning, pets should show up with an empty stomach. After taking X-rays and performing blood work to assess your pet’s health, vets will administer an IV and sedate the animal before scaling and polishing teeth. (Check out this video of the process.) Costly tooth extractions may be necessary, depending on the severity of gum disease. A fluoride treatment finishes the process. After all that drama, it’s essential to keep those pearly whites healthy with regular brushing, chews and perhaps even a special diet that incorporates enzymes that break down tartar above the gum line.

Next: Prevention is key!

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Read more: Cats, Dogs, Everyday Pet Care, Pets

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Megan, selected from Mother Nature Network

Mother Nature Network's mission is to help you improve your world. From covering the latest news on health, science, sustainable business practices and the latest trends in eco-friendly technology, MNN.com strives to give you the accurate, unbiased information you need to improve your world locally, globally, and personally – all in a distinctive thoughtful, straightforward, and fun style.

51 comments

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12:51PM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

12:52PM PST on Mar 8, 2012

part two:

try to avoid making gums bleed, as this can affect a cat with heart problems.

12:51PM PST on Mar 8, 2012

I got tired of spending hundreds to have my cats teeth cleaned, let alone the stress and danger factor with anesthetics.

Daily, I flick the tartar off of at least one of my cat' teeth. After you get all the hard stuff off, what you will get is a liquidy white substance, the beginnings of tartar.

I did this for two years, and for the first time, my cats got a clean bill of health re their teeth at their last check up. Try to avoid making g

12:52PM PST on Feb 7, 2012

Wow. With 4 kids, 2 dogs and 3 cats, I consider it a good day when I brush and floss my own teeth.

1:27AM PDT on Oct 12, 2011

Thanks

11:37AM PDT on Aug 24, 2011

Thank you

11:17AM PDT on Aug 23, 2011

Interesting

11:46PM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

It is possible to brush some cats' teeth, but generally you have to start early or use the suggestion of starting off with a washcloth or gauze around your finger. I suppose some cats and dogs will downright refuse. Also, cats jaws hinge differently and it can be uncomfortable for them to have even a small toothbrush in certain spots, so you have to exercise some care. You can get little finger brushes which might be easier. Vets charge hundreds and hundreds for cleanings and there's always one in the bunch who ends up having to go.
My cat is better than my dog, but it's been hard to find the paste I use without allergens so I've been remiss. : (

9:48AM PDT on Aug 22, 2011

Gracias por la información

6:22PM PDT on Aug 16, 2011

Treat your doggies like you treat your children

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