We are participating in the Caring For Critters Round Robin hosted by Heart Like a Dog. Think of the Round Robin like a relay race, with each blogger passing the virtual baton on to a fellow blogger, who will share their experience in tending to their pet’s health. We’re sharing our experiences with you, but please remember your first step should always be to check with your veterinarian when you’re concerned about a potential pet health issue.
It’s almost exactly a year ago now that CindyLu’s little life experienced great upheaval and change…I sold the only home she’d ever known and moved. Along with the new home, new neighborhood/neighbors, and loss of all other pets she’d previously shared her life with, came living in a strange place with a new dog (Vedder).
CindyLu was fascinated by the new neighborhood. All the new dogs and people though were a bit much all at once. To say she was stressed would be an understatement. I’ll always feel badly for not having realized just how stressful things were for her. To top it off, I tried to crate her so she’d be safe and secure when I left the house.
She developed phobias and separation anxiety – and completely freaked out when she was behind a closed door or crated. In her panicked state, CindyLu tried to claw and bite her way out. There’s no doubt this added to what would be discovered as a poor dental condition. Although she probably had bad teeth in the first place, trying to bite open wood doors and metal crate bars certainly sealed the deal.
Noticing loose and missing teeth, I took her to a vet nearby, who thought she was “just fine”. Then to another, who said she did not have any tartar or other dental issues, but recommended I schedule a dental cleaning a couple of months down the road when they would be running a special on it. Neither looked in her mouth.
I was not satisfied. I was sure she had some dental issues, and sought the opinion finally of a vet from back home who I trusted greatly.
This is where we mention that the most important tool in your toolbox as a pet parent (and so much else about life in general!) is your gut feeling. You can tell when things seem off, and you know the ease you feel when you fully trust something or someone. It took three tries to get it right just on a vet’s opinion about CindyLu’s oral health.
The result was that her mouth was indeed in bad shape – she’d lost a few teeth, had some loose and broken ones, there was indeed tartar buildup, and in general was in dire need of a full dental.
She was going on five years old, and I’m ashamed to admit I’d never had a dental performed on her up to that point. I have to live with the guilt that she might have had less dental problems – and more teeth in her mouth now – if I’d just been a responsible pet parent in the first place.
So, after six pulled teeth in addition to the ones she’d lost on her own, and a thorough dental cleaning apparently long overdue – CindyLu’s mouth was in better shape, albeit more spacious in there. That cute underbite she always had now shows more, since she doesn’t have any upper front teeth. And with so many teeth missing, there are some things that she can’t bite or chew effectively.
But she’s now healthy and I’m resolved to keep her that way.
The biggest sin of all is that she was probably in a good deal of pain. Pain that I didn’t even realize, pain that showed in behavior I was assuming to be all part of the anxieties she was feeling. I had no idea. But at least now I know what to watch for, and I know the importance of getting those little ivories checked and cleaned. She will be having yearly dentals from now on, probably for most of the rest of her life.
While some dogs are more prone to dental disease (Shih Tzus and Yorkies are known for it, as I now know), any dog or cat may have inherited a tendency for weak or troublesome dental conditions. You just never really know until the bad stuff starts happening. Or when your vet notices something.
Did you know?
- By the time dogs and cats are three years old, many already have the beginnings of periodontal disease.
- Bad breath is often the first sign of dental disease. (CindyLu had bad breath – we thought it was from her habit of snacking at the litter boxes, though.)
- Cats may show increased drooling or poor grooming.
- Both cats and dogs may show a reluctance to eat, or even to play with toys.
- Other signs include “chattering” of the teeth when trying to eat, lethargy, bleeding gums, and eroded or missing teeth.
- Dental disease progresses in stages — if caught early, you can prevent further damage and save as many teeth as possible.
- If your pet has difficulty with the toothbrush, you can use gauze – by wiping the outward-facing surfaces of her teeth, you loosen the bacterial-laden film just enough that the special ingredients in the pet toothpaste can then break apart and dissolve. The rest of the areas on the teeth get the friction from meals and chews.
In addition to yearly dental exams, we’ve added a few things to our repertoire to make sure the best dental health possible for CindyLu.
- We avoid the really hard bones and chews (they can crack or fracture weak teeth).
- She gets VOHC-approved dental chews daily, to help strengthen and care for her remaining teeth.
- While CindyLu was always served higher-quality foods, we’ve upped the minimum standards to some of the highest-rated foods. Her main courses consist of 5 star rated foods. Excellent nutrition is the core foundation to providing the best of health.
- I now do something I used to scoff at. I thought it was kinda silly to be worrying about brushing a pet’s teeth. Well, now we do. Gauze (the toothbrush made her nervous) and doggie toothpaste work just fine, and it helps to limit the tartar buildup that leads to dental disease.
There’s no doubt that good dental health is important to overall good physical health and well-being. And a comfortable, pain-free existence surely adds to that.
Take it from someone who learned the hard way – oral care is a vital part of taking care of your pet.
Here’s to your pet’s health and beautiful pearly whites! 🙂
What’s your pet-dental routine? Got any more tips to share?
Tomorrow Jen at Dogthusiast will share her story…