Remember when your pup was young and would lovingly give you a kiss on the nose? Now, though, as the pup has matured into middle age, that has become a show of affection you want to avoid at all costs! Rover’s breath has gotten so bad that it could wilt a carnation at a hundred yards! If you take a look at his teeth, you’ll probably see why: tartar buildup. Bacteria that live in the mouth like to live and grow on the teeth, where they deposit their by-products, like plaque. As these by-products accumulate, a crusty, hard material called calculus evolves on the teeth. With this calculus comes the gaseous smell that makes even the most caring owner avoid that pet’s kiss like the plague.
BUT THE REAL PROBLEMS OF BAD BREATH RUN DEEPER.
As these hard build-ups cake onto the tooth, the gums are pushed and shoved out of the way, exposing the tooth root. This gives way to infection of the root, abscesses, and premature loss of teeth. Bacteria can also find their way into the bloodstream around the gums and circulate through the body, causing such conditions as vegetative endocarditis (a disease of the heart valves) and chronic kidney disease.
OKAY, SO WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
First, we have to get rid of the build-up that already exists on the teeth. Unfortunately, while dog biscuits and dry foods are somewhat useful in keeping gums and teeth clean and strong, they are not able to remove the calculus nor the bacteria that caused it. Your pet needs to have his teeth cleaned periodically, just as we do. This involves a day in the hospital. After being checked in that morning, Rover will be examined by Dr. Rannals, then given a light anesthetic to make him sleep. We then use an ultrasonic dental scaler to remove the calculus caked on the teeth. Badly infected or damaged teeth may have to be removed to provide relief of discomfort and prevent infection of other, more vital, areas of the body. The actual time under anesthesia is usually less than half an hour. Then antibiotics will be given by injection (often, antibiotics may be dispensed to use at home for a few days). Rover is kept under observation while he rouses from his sleep. By the afternoon, most pets have fully “slept off” the anesthesia and are ready to go home. A light, soft meal can usually be given late that evening.
BUT ROVER’S GETTING OLD NOW. ISN’T THAT PROCEDURE AWFULLY RISKY FOR HIM?
Actually, the risk is very minimal, even in older pets. This is because the total anesthetic time is very small, as is the amount of anesthetic that is needed. In fact, the risk of infected teeth causing major problems to the pet is far greater, so it is usually much safer to have the dental procedure performed rather than avoided. To minimize risk, blood work is usually performed to be sure kidney and liver function are adequate to allow smooth recovery.
So, there’s the run-down on bad breath. Our receptionist will be happy to answer any further questions you may have, or schedule an appointment for your pet to have the dental procedure performed.