|BRUSHING, IT`S NOT JUST FOR HUMANS ANYMORE|
October, 06 2007
It's not like they have to floss, but keeping a pet's teeth
clean is essential to their good health and happiness.
Recent reports by the American Society for the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals and the American Veterinary Dental
Society suggest that many pet parents don't understand what
is required to maintain an animal's teeth and gums.
According to the AVDS, oral disease is one of the most
frequently diagnosed pet health problems. If left untreated,
it can lead to more severe woes, yet much of it can be
prevented, said the nonprofit.
One of the most commonly ignored symptoms of oral disease is
constant bad breath, said veterinarian Stephanie Hazen of
The Pet Clinic in Salem.
True, pets lick themselves and eat objects humans wouldn't
even pick up, let alone chew, but those scenarios are cause
and effect, said Hazen.
"If a dog or cat has bad breath that won't go away after
brushing, then that pet needs to be seen and assessed by a
vet," Hazen said.
Chronic bad breath, in some cases, she said, can be
indicative of fairly serious problems such as liver or renal
Hazen said pet parents brush their own teeth daily, but
often leave their animals' teeth unwashed for years or only
brush them on occasion.
She recommends brushing a pet's teeth every other day
because plaque mineralizes to calculus in about two days.
Calculus is the bacterial toxin that can enter the
bloodstream and infect vital organs, including the heart
lining and its valves.
Another symptom of gum disease is a pink or red line along
the gums. That usually indicates more advanced gum disease,
but "it's still treatable," said Mechelle Gilbert, a
certified veterinary technician at The Pet Clinic, who is
licensed to anesthetize and clean pets' teeth.
Other symptoms include animals who go to eat and then back
away from their food because of mouth pain and yellow or
brown crust near the gum line.
Sitting in front of a table with a drain built into it and
observing X-rays taken of a dog's teeth, Gilbert works to
remove mineralized calculus from the mouth of a dog named
After inserting a catheter in the dog to carry intravenous
drugs to the animal, Gilbert uses an ultrasonic cleaner to
chisel away at the deposits. She uses a polishing tool to
smooth any marks left by the first tool.
She then measures the gum line. If an infection is detected,
Gilbert and Hazen will determine its depth, then opt to
treat with oral antibiotics or inject an antibiotic gel
directly into the gums.
If they find any broken teeth after completing the cleaning,
they will advise the owner and discuss extractions.
The X-rays, extractions and antibiotic treatments add to the
cost of cleaning, said Hazen. A routine cleaning starts at
about $200 depending on whether it's a cat or dog and its
size. But it can rise to $1,000 or more if additional work
That is why Hazen's office takes an aggressive approach to
animal dental care.
She makes it part of the annual checkup, and depending on
the breed, reminds pet parents that they need to make
regular teeth cleaning a part of animal's routine.
There are some long-faced breeds such as German shepherds
whose short coats don't accumulate food around the face "who
can go forever without having their teeth cleaned by a vet
provided their pet parents brush regularly at home and their
gums don't become inflamed," said Hazen. "With other dogs
and cats, if owners start cleaning when they're puppies and
kittens, they can reduce the buildup, but not always prevent
Veterinarian Michael Stewart of Silver Creek Animal Clinic
in Silverton said his clients look to him for good advice in
pet rearing, so he too advocates brushing a pet's teeth.
"Dogs and cats have good enamel, and cavities are rare,"
Stewart said. "So we mainly fight dirty teeth and gum
recession. If we can get our clients to brush their pets'
teeth, then that preventative dental care will have a great
effect on their pet's health."
Stewart said his approach is one of balanced practicality.
He encourages pet owners to brush their pet's teeth so they
can avoid more serious problems such as heart disease. He
also warns against raising an obese pet.
"We would like pets not to become unaffordable to the
masses. We know that items like dental radiographs every
year are not practical for every family, so it's important
to offer information and options, too."
Hazen also advocates a new tool in the fight against canine
plaque -- a vaccine.
Having learned about the Porphyromonas vaccine at an AVDS
national convention last year, Hazen started offering the
shot in November.
She said it has been very successful in her patients, and it
has few side effects.
Most of the initial problems were pain at the injection
site, so she started offering an anti-inflammatory
medication called Rimadyl along with the shot to counter the
"It's been amazing," she said. "I've seen much improvement
in the animals I'm seeing back in six months."
The vaccine has a conditional license while awaiting
permanent drug administration approval. But Hazen said if it
continues to succeed in animals, it may progress to a
vaccine for humans.
She reports results regularly to the vaccine's manufacturer
Pfizer Animal Health.
Hazen said the vaccine is one of the many tools available to
pet owners to help their pets lead long and healthy lives.
"We just want to teach them that a pet's teeth are an
important part of their overall health and shouldn't be
ignored. We can't say it enough," Hazen said.
ccurrie@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6746
Credit : CAROL MCALICE CURRIE Statesman Journal
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