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Opinion By Dr Andrew Pilling
Dental care is an important part of caring for your pet, yet both owners and many vets ignore signs of dental disease for far too long. We hear many reasons from owners why they have not looked after their pets teeth. The top 10 reasons are.....


1. I did not know!

Many owners do not realise a pets teeth need care. Just like our own teeth they should be brushed, ideally daily, or at least 3 times a week. Even if this is done properly they will eventually need to be professionally cleaned, just like we need to have our teeth regularly cleaned at the dentists. It is the vet's duty to help you to properly care for your pet's teeth

2. They don't brush their teeth in the wild, it's not natural!

It is true a wolf or wild dog does not brush his teeth. A wolf does not live to 15 years old, he would be lucky to live half that. A wild dog would eat fur skin and bone as well as meat; these will naturally brush the teeth. The shape of a pedigree dog's mouth and face is not natural; it is bred to be different. His teeth do not work in the same way. Many pedigree dogs could not cope with a bone, skin and fur diet even if we could feed this in Hong Kong.

3. He is too young!

By 3 years old, which is equivalent to about age 20 in our lifespan, 80% of dogs and 70 % of cats have some dental disease. If we look after the teeth while the pets are young and keep them clean, the dentistry will be more minor and the pets can look forward to a long life with a full set of teeth.

4. He is too old!

No pet is too old for dental care. If there are no other health problems we can do dentistry for older pets. We will fully examine him and identify other problems. If we know about the problems we can treat them even if a pet is very old. We will only advise dental care if it is safe in our opinion, we do not want anything to go wrong either!

5. It's already been done.

No matter how well the teeth are cleaned and cared for over time plaque will re-form. This varies in different animals, but after 1-2 years it is usually necessary to repeat dental cleaning. Good home care and a dental diet such as Hills t/d or Royal Canin Dental and Oral Bars will greatly reduce the amount of calculus that forms

6. I don't want to anaesthetize him too often.

It is not possible to clean teeth properly without a general anaesthetic (GA). Just think how unpleasant it is when the dentist cleans your teeth! There is no maximum number of GAs a dog can have, the risk does not greatly increase each time. The safety of each GA depends on the care taken each time, not the number of times it is done. It is better to have a short GA every few years to maintain the teeth, rather than a very long one to treat a neglected mouth in an older dog.

7. I am scared of the anaesthetic risk.

No one wants to anaesthetize a pet unless it is needed. At HHVC we will take every precaution to make this as safe as possible. The pet will be examined and a full history taken. Blood and urine tests help to check for any problems A drip will help maintain blood pressure and allow any needed medicines to be given quickly and easily. The heart rate, breathing and oxygen level of the blood are closely monitored; the blood pressure may also be monitored in older pets. All these steps reduce the risk greatly but we cannot say there is no risk. Remember the health and safety of your pet is our priority. We recommend only what we consider necessary for the wellbeing and comfort of our patients.

8. I am worried he will not be able to eat if his teeth are taken out.

Can you imagine trying to eat dog biscuits with painful rotten teeth? An animal cannot eat properly with painful teeth. The only teeth we will remove are those that are loose, infected or broken and causing a problem. If the teeth are cleaned regularly and properly it should not be necessary to take out many teeth. We can X-ray the teeth to make sure we only extract problem teeth. If the teeth are very bad and do need to be taken out we will suture the gums and use antibiotics and painkillers during the recovery. Within a week the mouth will have healthy strong gums and be pain free. The pets can eat better with no teeth and good gums than with a rotten, painful mouth. If you don't want the teeth taken out start dental care early!.

9. My friend's dog had all his teeth extracted!

Dentistry is done to try to save the teeth not to extract them. If the teeth are well cared for over time it will not be necessary to take teeth out. If they have been neglected we will need to take out teeth where the bony support has been destroyed or where there is infection or pain is likely. Leaving an unstable or infected tooth will just mean the next dentistry needs to be done sooner

10. It's more expensive than having my teeth cleaned at the dentists.

When we go to the dentist we have (hopefully) properly cleaned our teeth twice a day for the last 6 months. We will sit quietly in the chair and help the dentist. Our pets don't do this! We need to anaesthetise the pets in order to clean their teeth properly. Their teeth are usually much dirtier than a human dentist would see because they are cleaned less often and not as well. Your pet will need to stay in the hospital for the day and may also need blood or urine tests, X-rays and a drip. All this extra care sometimes means pet dentistry could be more expensive than for people

So if you are still worried about your pet's mouth, book an appointment with the doctor and discuss your worries. We will examine your pet's mouth and the rest of his body. Then we can discuss the best possible ways of treating him.

At HHVC we want to prevent problems for pets by treating the teeth before the problems are so bad teeth need extracting. We want to preserve your pet's teeth for old age not extract rotten teeth! We believe in caring for what matters

Dental care: Prevent and Protect Care for your pet!

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