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February 2020 Q&A


1) I took my pet to the vet for the ir routine physical exam.  The veterinarian noted that my pet had a moderate amount of tartar building up and recommended a dental cleaning.  What is involved with this procedure?

Many pets experience tartar buildup over time, especially since they are not typically getting their teeth brushed on a routine basis.  Once the tartar has accumulated, the best and most effective way to restore a healthy mouth is to have their teeth cleaned.  This procedure will necessitate your pet undergoing anesthesia.  This is necessary in order to safely and effectively perform the dental cleaning procedure.  Many pet owners are concerned about anesthesia for their pets; however the anesthetic drugs available to us now as well as advances in monitoring the anesthetic episode have resulted in a much better experience for pets and their owners.  Once anesthetized, an ultrasonic scaler is used to remove all the existing tartar buildup on the teeth.  This is then followed by a polishing of all tooth surfaces.  During this anesthetic procedure, a thorough oral exam is possible to identify any particular areas of concern.  After the anesthetic recovery, the pet can then start on a routine oral health maintenance regimen based on the recommendation of the veterinary. 

2) How can I start brushing my pet’s teeth, and what should I use?

Brushing on a regular (at least weekly, but daily is ideal) basis is something many pets have not been acclimated to, and some pets are resistant to it no matter what our attempts are.  It is best to acclimate your pet to handling their face first in general.  The principles of desensitization and counter conditioning are useful to aid in the acclimation process.  With time, you should be able to start introducing the act of brushing to your pet.  It is best to use pet toothbrushes and toothpastes.  Human brushes typically have much more firm bristles, which can irritate a pet’s gums.  Additionally it is best to avoid human toothpastes that contain baking soda, detergents, or salts that may be harmful to your pet.  There are also several varieties of oral rinses or water additives that can be used in conjunction with brushing that can improve the overall effectiveness of an oral health care regimen.

3) What are the best chew toys/treat for my pet’s dental health?

This is a difficult question to answer.  This primarily applies to dogs, although there are some products available for cats.  In general none of the products available are a substitute by themselves for brushing.  It is best to use products available from your veterinarian instead of a pet store; these products will have a much better margin of safety and higher degree of effectiveness.  Caution should be used during any chewing activity.  An owner should always be present in case there is a situation where the pet inadvertently lodges a chew item in the mouth or upper esophageal region.  Additionally if your pet is on a restricted food protein diet or a restricted calorie food program, be conscious of the ingredients and caloric value of any chew/dental product that is designed to be ingested.

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