While anyone with a bad tooth knows how painful dental problems can be, dogs and cats can’t always let us know when their teeth are hurting.
“Most pets don’t show obvious signs of oral pain,” said Dr. Donnell Hansen, a board-certified veterinary dentist and oral surgeon with Blue Pearl. “That’s why it’s so important to focus on preventing problems before they occur.”
By the age of 2, more than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats develop some form of dental disease, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
To avoid painful and expensive medical problems, pet owners should schedule an annual oral examination with their family’s veterinarian. The exam should include X-rays to better identify hidden disease, Hansen said. Daily brushing is also recommended.
Just as in humans, dental disease in pets creates harmful bacteria that can spread to the delicate tissue in the kidneys, heart and brain.
Red flags include bad breath, brown teeth, red or swollen gums, drooling and refusing to eat. But by the time symptoms appear, the problem is typically quite advanced, Hansen said. She recently treated a 6-year-old terrier named Casey who had an abscessed tooth that wasn’t detected for five years.
Hansen is one of just 150 board-certified veterinary dentist and oral surgeons in the world, according to the American Veterinary Dental College. She has advanced training and is experienced in a variety of procedures, including root canals, removing oral cancer and repairing jaw fractures. Like the other specialists at BluePearl, Hansen handles cases referred by family veterinarians.
“Contacting your family vet is the first step if you have questions about your pet’s health,” said Hansen. “Scheduling regular visits is a good way to avoid serious issues down the road.”