“Wellness Yearly Visit” series – Chew on This!

How many of you have taken a whiff of your dog or cat’s breath and were surprised at how bad it smelled?  How many of you chalked it up to just being “dog breath” or “fish breath”?  Well, our pets are not supposed to have breath odor, just like we aren’t!  Bad breath can signal a variety of oral symptoms from simple food residue to more serious mouth cancer.

Dogs and cats develop plaque which leads to tartar.  Many times, you cannot see the plaque but you can begin to smell the bad breath odor that accompanies it.  Then tartar begins to form, usually on the rear molars and upper canine teeth first. This looks like a yellowish deposit.  At this stage, the gums will look normal.  If the teeth are not cleaned, the tartar will usually thicken and become worse and then the gums may become infected.  This signals the early stage of periodontal disease.  In advanced periodontal gum disease, the teeth will be so diseased that they cannot be saved and must be extracted or even fall out on their own.  You can imagine what kind of mouth pain this puts your pet in.  Once dogs lose their canine teeth, their tongues have a tendency to hang out of their mouths.

Certain dogs seem prone to dental disease; Poodles, Yorkies, Greyhounds, Chihuahuas to name a few.  Early monitoring of the teeth and good oral care including home prophylaxis will help prevent dental disease.  Yearly dental cleaning by your veterinarian is essential especially if he or she recommends that a cleaning is needed.  Don’t put it off!  When the teeth are severely infected, you may be referred to a dental specialist who will perform extractions and any necessary gum surgery.

The bottom line is, do not neglect your pet’s teeth!  There is a special diet by Hill’s called T/D that is formulated to promote the removal of plaque from the teeth.  There are numerous other products at your veterinarian’s office and in the pet stores that help with tartar removal.  You may have to try several different kinds to see which ones work best for your pet.  Feeding only dry food or providing beef bones (for dogs) to chew on does not always prevent tartar formation.

Dr. Jo Anne Carey, co-founder of Takoma Park Animal Clinic, has been serving the community with quality veterinary services and house calls since 1988.  The practice is conveniently located at 7330 Carroll Ave., Takoma Park, MD 20912.

Open seven days a week – 301 – 270 – 4700

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by Dr. Jo Anne Carey, Takoma Park Animal Clinic


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