Veterinarian Tips and Product Recommendations For Pet Dental Health Month

Although February is National Pet Dental Health Month, efforts to prevent periodontal disease should be part of every pet’s daily wellness routine.

Here are my top veterinary tips to promote your canine or feline companions best dental and whole-body health.

  1. Seek your veterinarian’s guidance to establish a plan that most appropriately suits your pet’s needs.

    Since Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) reports “more than 80 percent of pets in the U.S. experience gum disease by age three, there’s a high likelihood your four-legged pal will need some form of cleaning early in her adult years.

  2. Don’t be afraid of anesthesia.

    The most thorough dental cleaning occurs under general anesthesia, which permits scaling under the gumline, thorough teeth polishing, x-ray assessment of tooth attachment to the underlying bone, and dental extractions (when needed). According to an American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) interview with board-certified veterinary anesthesiologist Richard M. Bednarski, DVM, MSc, DACVAA, “the most recent statistics indicate that the death rate related to anesthesia [in pets] is approximately one anesthetic-related death for every 1,000 anesthetized.”

    My adage is “a pet is never too old for anesthesia,” but he certainly can be “too unhealthy.” Your veterinarian’s physical exam and diagnostics tests (blood, urine, and fecal testing, x-rays, ultrasound, etc.) will establish normal or abnormally functioning organs. Sick patients can be made healthier so that anesthesia is more safely performed and periodontal disease can be most-thoroughly resolved.

  3. Seek an evaluation by a veterinary dental specialist if your veterinarian isn’t able to completely address your pet’s dental disease or if you have a high-risk pet (internal organ problems, cancer, etc.).

    Such specialized practitioners are familiar with resolving complicated dental problems and every patient treated goes under anesthesia. Besides your veterinarian’s referral, you can locate a veterinary dental specialist in your area via the ACVD Veterinary Dentist Directory.

  4. Commit to daily home dental care.

    Ask your veterinarian or veterinary dental specialist for product recommendations and to demonstrate how to perform your pet’s home dental care. Brushing with a water-moistened, soft-bristle brush can be very effective in removing invisible plaque and yellow dental tartar from teeth. Pet-appropriate toothpaste, gels, and wipes can remove tartar and kill bacteria. Pet-safe dental chews can also clean teeth, but should not be used in lieu of brushing.

    Some of my top dental products include:
    Petsmile – the first toothpaste to be approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC)
    Crosstex Vet Oral Spray – which contains Chlorhexidine Gluconate 1%, a powerful antiseptic that kills mouth bacteria and can help to stop the development of or progression of periodontal disease (i.e. if you kill bacteria, plaque won’t form)
    DentAcetic Wipes – soft, cloth wipes infused with Acetic Acid (vinegar) to deter bacterial growth and Sodium Hexametaphosphate (SHMP) to demineralizes dental tartar. Getting one’s nail behind the DentAcetic wipe can help scrape tartar away from the gumline.
    Tooth to Tail Antioxidant Oral Gel – an antioxidant gel that fights off volatile sulfur compounds produced by bacteria that are harmful to teeth. Tooth to Tail would especially suit uncooperative pets that don’t permit brushing or wiping.
    Honest Kitchen Beams – dehydrated, wild-caught Icelandic Catfish skins having a mildly abrasive effect that helps remove plaque and tartar from teeth and contain naturally anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids.

  5. Feed your pet a whole food diet.

    In my experience as a veterinarian, my canine and feline patients that eat diets containing minimally-processed, whole-food ingredients have cleaner mouths than patients eating most kibble and canned diets. According to the Canadian Veterinary Journal, “a diet high in highly refined and easily fermentable carbohydrates will favor the development of caries” (dental decay). Such ingredients are found in the majority of commercially-available pet foods, both dry and moist, and especially in diets containing grain “meals and by-products.” Kibble doesn’t clean teeth any more than pretzels clean human teeth (unless the kibble is a veterinary prescription dental diet).

    Additionally, my patients consuming human-grade, whole-food dog and cat diets like The Honest Kitchen pet food generally have an improved overall state of health and better functioning immune systems to help deter internal organ damage associated with oral cavity bacteria.

Meet the Author: Patrick Mahaney

Dr. Patrick Mahaney VMD, CVA, CVJ is a veterinarian and certified veterinary acupuncturist providing services to Los Angeles-based clients both on a house call and in-clinic basis. Dr. Mahaney’s unique approach integrating eastern and western medical perspectives has evolved into a concierge house call practice, California Pet Acupuncture and Wellness (CPAW), Inc. Additionally, Dr. Mahaney offers holistic treatment for canine and feline cancer patients at the Veterinary Cancer Group (Culver City, CA).

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