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Natural Awakenings Central New Jersey

A Lifetime of Smiles

Jul 29, 2015 10:06PM
With the advent of summer sunshine and warmer weather, those of us with dogs and cats find ourselves dreading the resurgence of fleas and ticks, ear infections and itchy skin flare-ups. As the external thermostat rises, we find ourselves in what l fondly call the “New Jersey Incubator” (hot and humid, just the way micro-organisms like it in the lab incubators). While these topics are more seasonal in nature, one of the challenges I face as a veterinarian year-round is dental disease lurking in the mouths of our beloved dogs and cats. Halitosis (bad breath), gingivitis (inflamed and infected gums) and the deposition of plaque and tartar are equal opportunity afflicters, no matter the season.

Go ahead. Smell your pet’s breath. Stinky, neutral or fresh? If you said stinky, it’s not normal. Bad breath often signals active disease in your pet’s mouth. The good news is that you can detect this on your own before showing up on your veterinarian’s doorstep. Why does this matter? Poor oral health can frequently cause pain for your pet. It can also lead to disease in the liver, kidneys and the heart and ultimately shorten your pet’s lifespan. Few pets will raise their paw and tell you when their teeth or gums hurt, yet dental disease is the single most frequent problem cited in companion animals, with upward of 85% of all dogs and cats suffering from this condition (AVMA).

In reality, an awake dog or cat won’t sit still or long enough for a detailed oral evaluation—much less a thorough teeth cleaning. (So far, I’ve been unable to teach my own pets how to brush and floss every day.) That’s why an in-depth, correct dental cleaning for a dog or cat requires general anesthesia. (Don’t buy into ads for “anesthesia-free” dentals, which usually involve untrained, unlicensed individuals doing little more than “brushing” your pet’s teeth under the guise of safety and savings.) The bona fide dental procedure includes oral X-rays as part of the evaluation process and deep cleaning with an ultrasonic or piezio-electric cleaner. These steps can only be accomplished under general anesthesia.

Ask your veterinarian to discuss all the steps of a complete dental, which should include: general anesthesia; a detailed oral exam; dental X-Rays to visualize roots and identify disease below the gum line that is invisible to the naked eye; ultrasonic (or piezio-electric) scaling; low speed polishing; sub-gingival cleaning; fluoride application; extractions if needed; antimicrobial gel treatment; and pain management. When performed properly, a comprehensive dental cleaning procedure for your pet can turn a foul, infected, smelly orifice into a clean, healthy and pain-free mouth.

What can you do at home in between these cleanings, you say? Daily brushing, special dental diets, approved dental chews, and antiseptic water additives or sprays are a good start, and will add years of health and pain-free companionship for your special furry family member. So worry about ticks in April and October, fuss over ear infections all summer long, quell the itch in Spring or Summer, but pay heed to your pet’s gums, teeth and mouth every day. That way, Fido and Garfield will be around longer to share their companionship and unconditional love…and that, in turn, will make you live longer too.

Contact Bernardsville Animal Hospital to explore the applicability of laser therapy for your pet, and an initial complimentary demonstration. 41 Morristown Rd. Bernardsville. 908-766-0041. See ad on this page.

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