Friday, August 5, 2016

Dental Discussion - Smile! Dental Checks are On!

Smile everyone! Its “guess what”! 

Yes, its Pet Dental Month, where all discussions are all about how to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. 

It is an opportunity for every pet owner to visit the vet, as these dental checks are free for all pet owners, for all pets at all participating vet hospitals around the country (which is most veterinary hospitals). 

So why don’t all pet owners take advantage of this free happy visit?  I have several theories.

  •  Some pet owners don’t think their pet has any dental issues at all, after all, they are still eating well and playing  well and seem happy.

  • Some pet owners are just not aware that free dental checks are even available

  • Some pet owners are scared about what the vet may actually say, and how much it is going to cost to get the dental disease managed.

  •   Some pet owners like the blissful knowledge of ignorance.
  • Some pet owners just do not care.

So let me address these five theories of mine. 

The pet is eating well, therefore has no dental issues.

Oh how I wish this were true, but sadly, our pets hide their dental pain until it is so bad, that they would choose dying via starvation.  I certainly would not be waiting for my pets to stop eating before I addressed any dental issues they might have, so why would you? 

I saw a cat the other day with two fractured teeth, and the owner's comment to me was "well it doesn't stop her from eating".  They refused to believe that the cat could be in pain, and I was not able to convince them otherwise. 

What pets often do, though, with dental pain is that they may preferentially chew on one side of the mouth (so one side has more buildup than the other side), or they may swallow their food whole without any chewing (to avoid those sore gums).  Only observant owners will notice these subtle changes.  

Why not watch your pet eat?

Not being aware that dental checks are available. 

I suppose if you never took your pet to the vet at all, you would not know what services the vet is able to offer you to help you keep your pets happy and healthy.  

Some pet owners think vets are only good for two things – desexing and euthenasing, with some pets only visiting the vets for those two things only. 

Some pet owners don’t have a loyalty to a particular vet, but will go to wherever is closest or cheapest for them if they need to, so they may not be receiving the newsletters or hearing about these dental checks. 

Why not share this exciting news with all of your friends with furbabies?  

Fear of the vet
With statistics like 80% of pets aged 3 years or more have dental disease, it is pretty much a foregone conclusion that at the dental check, there is going to be a serious discussion on how to get the mouth back to healthy, and then how to keep them that way. 

And sadly, this discussion often leads to the cost of all of this.  

I can certainly understand that fear. 
It may surprise owners to know that it is cheaper for you, and better for your pet to have a professional dental assessment and treatment done under anaesthetic once a year, than a single anaesthetic with multiple extractions when they are older?   I have many many dogs and cats who have regular treatments who still have most if not all of their adult teeth in a healthy state when they are in their senior years.  

No pet owner needs to feel guilty if their pet has dental disease.  A lot of the time it is due to factors beyond anyone's control (such as the pet’s genetics, hair length around the muzzle). 

 If it is due to owner’s unable or unwilling for home care, then again, do not feel guilty for your inaction in the past, take steps now to get the problem sorted.   If you do that, your pet and I will think you are a Superhero, not a dweeb. 

The blissful ignorance 

The owners with this never fails to amaze me.  Some pet owners are blissfully unaware of the cesspool in their pet’s mouth, or they are unwilling to see the pain and the pus that resides there. They do not know the constant damage being done to kidneys and livers from the bacteria streaming through the blood stream each time their pet eats. 

Gross - Hair stuck around the teeth. This one went home with a beautiful mouth afterwards.
“His teeth are great” many pet owners say to me when I flip their pet’s lip.  But when I look, I see red swollen gums with pus peeking out from under the gum margin. 

Thankfully, the number of pet owners I see with this problem is low. 

Some pet owners do not care

This one is self explanatory – for some pet owners, it is “just a dog” or “just a cat”, and as such they are not going to waste their time or money doing anything more than the bare minimum.  

I have no (polite) words to say here.  Our animals are so special, that I do not understand why you would have a pet if you weren't willing to accept responsibility for their care. 

Dr Liz, the mad vet in Bellambi
I send a personal invitation to every pet owner out there to come visit us at Russell Vale Animal Clinic for their pet’s free dental check this month of August(and during every other month of the year).  Every day is Pet Dental Month here. 

If you aren't local, why not ask the vets in your area if they are participating in Pet Dental Month (and ask whether they do dental radiographs too). 
In the next post, I am going to share what is actually involved in a Pet Dental check here, as it may surprise you.