Dental Disease and Your Pets
By Erika Bruner, DVM
Dental health is an important part of your pet’s overall health. Having a clean, healthy mouth not only makes your pet’s breath smell better, it can help him or her live a longer, happier life.
Animals who do not yet have any significant dental disease benefit most from preventative measures. Brushing your pet’s teeth, feeding special food, or using dental treats and chew toys can all help. It’s best to start early in a pet’s life, but it’s never too late, and a gradual approach can help even an older pet accept something new. Please ask your veterinarian for more information.
Oral assessment is a key part of our staff’s evaluation of any pet at CVHS. We classify existing dental disease into three categories: pets who need a dental cleaning within the next 30 days (urgently), within six months, and those who should have one in the next two years. Pets in the first category usually need one or more teeth extracted. They should have dental care as soon as reasonably possible. Not only are their mouths uncomfortable, but they are at risk for tooth root abscesses, which can be quite serious. Most adult pets have mouths that need some attention, but those in the latter two categories do not present an immediate health risk.
Please be aware that a complete oral exam on a pet cannot be done without general anesthesia, and in some cases may require special equipment or dental x-rays. The assessment we do at CVHS is a preliminary one. It is not unusual to find, once your pet has been anesthetized and fully evaluated by your veterinarian, that his or her mouth is worse than originally expected. This is simply the nature of dental disease.
If you are adopting a pet who will need dental care soon, please discuss this with your veterinarian at your first visit. Pets’ teeth are scaled and polished under general anesthesia. The procedure generally costs between $200-$400 for cleaning and assessment, and can be up to $500-$900 depending on the size of the pet and the severity of disease. If dental disease is ignored, it will worsen over time. Addressing problems early on can help your pet avoid tooth loss and the risk of painful infections, and will also cost you less than waiting until dental disease is severe.
To prevent dental problems from recurring after the procedure, it’s important to keep your pet’s mouth in good shape with ongoing care. Your veterinarian can help you assess your pet’s needs and will work with you to keep your pet’s mouth healthy for many years to come. Please see your veterinarian for more information.