Archive for the ‘Dental’ Category

What’s Wrong With My Cat’s Mouth?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Feline premolars 2 resorbtion 352 264Today, I visited my dentist for my six- month check up and cleaning.  It got me thinking about our pets and cats inparticular.  Many cat owners look at the grace, athleticism and beauty of their pets and think that they have the “perfect” animal.  Unfortunately, many of these same cats will have a very “imperfect” mouth, due to a serious and very painful condition that causes teeth to resorb, dissolve and even break!   Here’s what we know about Tooth Resorption in cats.

Ask any cat owner about how they care for their feline’s teeth and most will reply that “he eats dry food” or, more commonly “I really don’t clean her teeth”.  While most veterinarians will acknowledge that brushing a cat’s teeth is a challenge for many owners, they will stress the importance of routine oral assessment of your cat’s mouth.  These exams help find preventable problems and even some very concerning issues.  One of those concerns we are seeing more frequently is called Feline Tooth Resorption.

Tooth Resorption, or “TR” as it is commonly called, is a condition seen in a growing percentage of cats over the age of six years. The same strange condition is also seen in dogs and in people, but it is not nearly as common.

In the past, this disease has been called “neck lesions”, “cervical line lesions” and even the cumbersome “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)”.  Whatever the name, we know that this condition is seen in cats who often appear normal.  The process will continue to develop, causing extreme pain because of the exposure of the root canal.  This can even lead to behavior changes and lack of normal appetite.

Dr. Brett Beckman, a noted board-certified veterinary dentist, says that an exact cause for TR has not been determined yet.  Theories about exposure to certain viruses, breed prevalence and chronic inflammation of the mouth and gums have all been proposed as root causes.  According to Beckman, a single study suggests that high levels of Vitamin D in cat foods could be linked to resorptive disease, but that research is still ongoing.  Interestingly, there has even been evidence of TR in cat skeletons that are 800 years old!

Clinically, most cats will appear normal, but observant owners may note that their cat prefers to chew food on just one side or that the cat stops grooming.  They may “toss” dry food into the back of their mouth.   As TR progresses, some pets will even develop sullen or aggressive attitudes, as if they are mad at the world!

Eventually, your veterinarian may point out how some of your cat’s cheek teeth are showing lines of inflamed, fleshy material right near the base of the tooth.  At this point, the erosion has exposed the tooth to the bacteria of the mouth and this is when affected cats become extremely painful.  Even under a general anesthetic, a slight touch of these teeth will cause a cat to “chatter” their jaw, indicating very serious pain!

Dental x-rays are the only way to diagnose TR.  When the radiographs are taken, if TR is present, your veterinarian can see changes in the density of the roots and crowns of the teeth.  All teeth can be affected, but the major “signal” tooth is the first one in the lower jaw.  Some teeth can be partially affected, while others may have completely dissolved away leaving a “ghost image”.

Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment that can save the pet’s teeth.  A normal cleaning and polishing will not work!  Veterinary dentists have even tried root canal therapies (endodonics), but they fail, as this resorption occurs on a microsopic basis.  A tooth that is showing any signs of resorption needs to be extracted.  Some cats will need full mouth extractions.  All cats with a known history of TR should be x-rayed every six months to a year. It is likely other teeth are affected and they must be monitored.

The good news in all of this is that once your veterinarian knows about the disease, several things can be done to keep your cat comfortable.  Experience has shown that cats who were once not eating well or even aggressive will often have a positive behavior change in just a matter of weeks.  It is surprising how the removal of these painful teeth can often bring back your affectionate feline friend.

Owners are often unaware that their pets are experiencing such discomfort.  But, regular visits to your veterinarian can help identify the issue and start work that will make your cat feel better.  Contact your veterinarian to have a comprehensive oral examination for your pet, including dental x-rays and regular dental cleanings.

Feeding Bones is an Expensive Gamble!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Bones 8 326 245No matter if it’s a brand new puppy or a senior citizen dog, pet owners love to spoil their canine friends with bones.  After all, what’s more natural than a dog with a bone?  But veterinarians warn that feeding bones is a gamble that could end up creating a very unnatural veterinary bill!

We have all seen the cartoons and commercials depicting dogs burying bones and stashing them away for later.  Unfortunately, most pet owners are completely unaware of the significant risks and problems that are associated with feeding these treats.  The situation has gotten so bad that even the FDA has warned consumers to avoid giving bones to their dogs.

Advocates of raw pet foods and other so-called “natural diets” claim that, given properly, bones are a great way to clean your pet’s teeth and provide an instinctive means of stress relief. Some even state that bones provide important nutrients and should be included in your pet’s daily routine.

So, is it okay to give a dog a bone?


Pets Need Dental Care Too!!

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Cat with ToothbrushFebruary is National Pet Dental Health Month.  Beyond the bad breath, dental disease in our pets can have some severe consequences, not the least of which is the PAIN.  Yes, pets with dental disease are uncomfortable and so it’s important for all pet owners to understand the need for a proper dental cleaning…done by a veterinarian!

Did you know that pets suffer from dental disease just like people do?  One of the worst things about dental disease is the pain.  Dogs and cats don’t always show how uncomfortable they are. Pets can have very serious dental problems, such as infected teeth, jawbone abscesses or fractured teeth and never say, “ouch” or hold their paw to their jaw, but they do hurt!  Many times, when these problems are corrected, a pet’s entire personality can change.  They often become more social, interactive and playful because they are no longer in pain.

So, how do you check for dental disease in your pet?  First, look for yellow or brown color of the teeth, not just in the front teeth, but also the back part of the mouth.  While this sounds very simple, most pet owners never lift their pet’s lip and look inside the mouth, so… Lift The Lip!  Next, just smell the breath.  It may not be minty fresh but it should not be foul smelling.  If it is, bad bacteria have already set up and are working on infecting the gum and even loosening the attachment of the teeth to the jawbone.  This means that dental disease has been progressing for months or years without you knowing.


Anesthesia Free Pet Dentistry May Feel Brush of Law!

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Dental month is now over but dentistry is important throughout the year.  Veterinarians have long told pet lovers about the importance of good dental care. However, danger is lurking.  Conscientious pet owners are being misled by aggressive marketing of a ‘fad’ option, “Non-Anesthesia Pet Dentistry” (NAPD).

This trend, using unlicensed and unsupervised individuals, advocates non-anesthetic techniques that may actually be harmful to pets.

 Statistics from the American Veterinary Dental Society report at least 80% of pets by age three show signs of periodontal (gum) disease. 

Good dental hygiene should start at home. A healthy oral regimen includes brushing, good dental diets, dental chew materials, and other effective techniques to retard accumulation of dental plaque.  

This regimen should be augmented with regular dental exams by a licensed veterinarian.  According to American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), dental exams for cats and small dogs should start at one year of age and large-breed dogs at two years.   

While the concept of a non-anesthetic dental initially appears to make sense, a pet dental exam without anesthesia is purely cosmetic in nature.  (more…)

Fresh Breath and Straight Teeth

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

Although many of us dread it, we visit our dentist routinely to insure our mouth stays healthy and our smile bright.  Our pets also benefit from a visit to their dentist and advanced dental care is quickly becoming more common.  That’s right…braces for Boxers, crowns for Collies and a root canal for a Rottweiler is just a typical day at the Veterinary Dentist!

When we go to the dentist, we are not surprised when the doctor tells us that we need to have dental x-rays done.  But, hearing the same thing from your veterinarian might shock you.  After all, how does the pet know to stand still?

Digital dental x-rays are becoming more common at veterinary practices across the country.  Since a large percentage of our pets suffer from gingivitis or even more advanced periodontal disease, this tool is vital for veterinarians and veterinary dentists.  

Most people don’t realize it, but most of the pet’s tooth lies under the gumline where you can’t see any disease.  Dr. Jan Bellows, a Diplomate in the American Veterinary Dental College explains, “Sixty percent of the tooth lies under the gum line. Since companion animals don’t talk (to tell us where the pain is), x-rays help the veterinarian see what’s below.”

Dr. Brett Beckman, past President of the American Veterinary Dental Society concurs.  “42% of cats and 28% of dogs have hidden dental problems that we would never find without x-rays.”  So, while you might think that your pet’s teeth are just fine, the odds are that he or she is actually losing bone and other important structures that help hold the tooth in place.  The best way to determine this is the use of x-rays, done while the pet is under a general anesthetic.


Pet Dentistry Without Sedation: Worthwhile or Just Surface Changes?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

This week marks the final week of Dental Month.  In veterinary medicine, dental disease is seen in almost every animal.  But, in our busy lives it’s hard to find the time to do regular preventive care.   Adding to the problem, dental cleanings under general anesthesia seems risky to many.  Recently, anesthesia-free pet dentistry has become a fad.  However, is this option good care and safe long term?

With more than 85% of pets over age three suffering from some sort of dental disease, veterinarians are constantly reminding clients to provide at home dental care for their pets.  In addition, most veterinarians encourage annual dental exams and cleanings for their patients followed by care at home.  Still, pet owners are reluctant to follow these recommendations.


Dental Care for Pets

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Of all dogs 2 years old or more, 80% have some form of dental disease, and veterinarians say that periodontal disease is the number one diagnosed condition in pets today.

 When Marlene King’s two dogs fought over a bone one night, she had to rush her eldest pet, 14-year-old cocker spaniel “Toby” to the veterinary emergency hospital.  She knew that Toby would have to have a few stitches for the bite wounds on his face, but she was shocked when the emergency veterinarian was more concerned about the severity of Toby’s dental disease.

 “The veterinarian was much more worried about the infection in Toby’s mouth.  One of his big canine teeth had been knocked out in the fight and if we didn’t do gum surgery to repair the hole, he would always have severe sinus infections. Because Toby’s gum disease was so advanced, the doctor was worried about the chances of the surgery healing. I never knew that dental care was that important.”


February Is Pet Dental Month

Monday, January 25th, 2010

For many people, dealing with their pet’s bad breath is just part of pet ownership.   But, unfortunately, dogs and cats with dental disease are at a higher risk for heart disease.   How can you help to make sure your pet is not one of those destined to be on heart medication?

Most of us understand the importance of good oral health for ourselves and visit our dentist at least twice a year.   But only a small percentage of people would do the same thing for their pets.  Studies in human dentistry and medicine have shown that there appears to be an association between heart disease and dental disease.   Is this true for our pets as well?

In a recent nationwide veterinary study, more than 45,000 cases of dogs with serious dental disease were reviewed.  These dogs were compared with another 45,000 dogs of similar gender, age, and breed that did not have any dental disease. Their report shows that there appears to be a strong association between the health of your pet’s mouth and the incidence of other health issues, such as heart murmurs or even infection of the lining of the heart.