Dental care is an important part of your pet’s well-being. Regular at home examinations could help keep your pet pain free and catch any signs of dental disease before they become a problem. An at home dental exam should only take a few minutes and should be done at least once a month.
First, make sure your pet is comfortable with you handling his or her face and with placing your fingers around their mouth. For some pets, this may not be comfortable for them and may take a little patience. Start slowly, by working with them a little bit everyday so that they begin to get use to you having your hands around their head and mouth.
When you’re ready to examine your pet, choose a well lit area and raise your pet off the ground to give yourself a good point of view. For cats, whenever you need to work around their head, it’s best to immobilize them to protect yourself from scratching, clawing or excessive squirming. You can safely immobilize your cat by lightly securing them in a blanket or towel. Once they are securely wrapped you can begin your examination. For large dogs, that cannot be raised off the ground, kneel down so that you are parallel to their mouth and see if you safely exam them from the side.
Before opening your pet’s mouth, begin by examining their face and neck. Look and feel around for any unusual swelling. Next, gently pull back the lips to expose your dog’s teeth and gums. Cats are a little different; you are going to open their mouth by gently gripping below the whiskers with one hand while gently moving the jaw down.
The most common conditions you are going to look for are tartar build up, loose or diseased teeth, bleeding, open sores inside the mouth and tongue, foreign objects within the teeth or stuck on the roof of the mouth and tongue and pain if you touch the gums or mouth.
Tartar is a yellow/brown substance that accumulates on the teeth. Tartar will not damage the tooth directly, but if left untreated, it can damage the gums allowing bacteria in, causing infection and tooth loss. To control tartar build up and prevent gum disease, incorporating a regular dental care routine such as regular brushing, proper diet and tarter control treats is the best form of prevention.
Bad breath in pets, just like humans, can have many causes. The most common is poor oral hygiene, which can be corrected with a regular dental care program. You can also use a breath freshener if it is really offensive. If your pet’s breath continues to be offensive it could indicate a digestive or dietary problem, and they may need to be evaluated by your vet.
If you notice any of the signs mentioned above, your pet should see their veterinarian for a complete check up. If left untreated, dental issues can transfer to other areas of the body and cause infections and disorders. Just like humans, dental problems can also be extremely painful and should never be left without treatment.