February is National Pet Dental Health Month 2014

By Dr. Charles Curie

February is national Pet Dental Health month. This event was launched by the Veterinary profession to bring awareness to the importance of dental health for our pets.

The Country Doctor (Jefferson) and Geneva Veterinary Clinics have expanded their dental health emphasis to the entire year. We educate our clients every day about these issues.

Dental health is just that important and we want every pet to have a chance to have a healthy mouth and a good life.

As our relationship with animals changed our expectations regarding quantity and quality of life issues changed as well.

My career as a veterinarian began in 1971 as I began my education at Ohio State University. At that time there was little if any emphasis on oral health in dogs and cats. We were only focused on the big problems like a serious tooth root abscess or a broken jaw.

I began my private practice here in Ashtabula County in 1978 and still neither my profession nor pet owners were giving much thought to dental health issues in pets.

But change was afoot. Pets were rapidly moving from the back yard to the bedroom and attaining status as family members.

We all wanted them to live longer healthier lives. Veterinary medicine responded to the will of its consumers and a flood of new vaccines, preventative medicines and procedures were ushered in.

Preventative dentistry was one element of this new era and it has made a major impact on quality and quantity of life for our pets. Keeping pets’ teeth clean and mouths healthy has added two years to their life span. Quality of life has improved immensely.

There are volumes of research to support these facts, but more importantly and perhaps more credible is the many millions of owners who can say wow what a difference that has made for my pet.

In the 36 years I have been practicing veterinary medicine I am pleased to say WOW as well. Pets are living almost 50 percent longer than when I began. And quality of life is so much better than back in the “Not” so good ole days!

It should be no surprise that clean teeth can make such a difference! Our dentists have been telling us this stuff for the last 75 years.

Dirty teeth cause gingivitis which leads to periodontal disease and tooth loss, which allows bacteria to enter the blood, which leads to heart, liver and kidney diseases and poor quality of life and shortened life span. Period!

Not all dogs and cats need their teeth cleaned but it is estimated that at least 60 percent of them over the age of four do. This correlates with what I see in daily practice.

I have people say well Doc I remember this old farm dog that live to be 18yrs and never had his teeth cleaned. Yea, yea, yea we all know of the exceptions. But I also know that “Ole Roy” may well have had a much better quality of life if he had a healthy mouth.

Furthermore I or any other Vet for that matter can pretty much guarantee that most small breed (under 40lbs) dogs and most cats will definitely need to have regular dental cleanings done.

Dental health is mostly a matter of genetics. They either have a predisposition for good or bad oral health. Regardless of the ads and TV commercials it has little to do with diet and treats. Sorry about that, but it is true.

So if you want your pet family member to live as long as possible and have the best quality of life you must take care of their teeth.