Monday, June 28, 2010

Live Long and Prosper, Third in a Series

So here it is, a couple of days late due to a little techno hang up. (I couldn't find any pictures to use for this post even though I have saved many over the past couple of months in anticipation). I think the glitch has something to do with my abandonment of the Blackberry Storm that I have hated for two years and the acquisition of the yet to be mastered Droid Ally. However, I think that my technology foibles can be another whole series of posts for some future date. I'm not here to talk about phones or apps, or even my laptop computer which seems to spend more time at a certain apartment in Brooklyn than it does on my lap. I'm here to talk about one of the most important things you can do to help your pet live a long and healthy life. We've covered vaccines and Nutrition/weight control. Now it's on to oral health.

Now this doggie seems to have nice, shiny, white teeth. You might say, "Gee, the gums look a little red and maybe I detect some staining on that upper 4th premolar." (big tooth with two points). You might also wonder why this dog has a clear tube coming out of it's mouth, and why Kim's fingers are so close to the aforementioned pointy teeth. Well, as you might have guessed, this dog is sleeping and it's teeth didn't look like this a little while ago.

They looked like this. (Cue the horror movie dramatic music)

Yes, it's true, someone probably let this dog lick them on the face and couldn't imagine why it's breath smelled like 2 week old dead fish. But bad breath is not the only problem that we see with dental disease of this degree. As you can imagine, this dog's mouth must hurt. Go to your dog right now. I'll wait, bring him or her back to you computer. Now sniff his breath. Lift his lip carefully like Kim was doing in the first picture. If you smell rotten eggs or see any staining on the teeth, or worse, if you see tarter and red gums like this you call your veterinarian first thing in the morning, hang your head in shame and make an appointment to have your pet's mouth examined and the disease treated. That's right, disease. Oral disease is a painful condition that leads to tooth loss. Infections in the periodontal pocket can cause abscesses. Cat's (not pictured here due to the aforementioned tech issues) also get cavity like lesions that expose the nerves. Bacteria can get into the blood and cause kidney disease, heart valve disease, and liver abscesses. Toxins from these heinous bacteria make your pet feel like crap. This is serious stuff. Oh, I know, your pet is too old for anesthesia and dental treatment. Horse Hockey! (for all you Col. Potter fans). Old age is not a disease but rotting teeth are. Have your vet perform a complete physical examination, including the oral cavity. This, along with some basic blood work will determine the safest way to treat your pet's mouth.

See, here's another dog with horrendous teeth. This guy isn't going to be so lucky. Once the teeth were cleaned and radiographs were taken, it was determined that not all of the teeth could be saved. That's right, we had to make the phone call that owner's hate to hear, "Mrs (fill in your name if you haven't been taking care of your dog's teeth.) we have finished Fluffy's cleaning and radiographs and we have to extract several teeth" The owner always gasps and asks how the dog will eat. I tell them, "better than he is eating now because these teeth are loose and painful."

Notice how clean the teeth left behind are? Notice how many are missing? And this is only one side of the mouth. I assure you that the other side looks much the same. Do not let your pet's teeth get like this. Your veterinarian should be examining your pet's teeth at every wellness visit. You should ask your veterinarian if your pet's teeth are OK and if yes, what you should do to keep them that way. If no, what do you have to do to treat this disease. Once the mouth looks like the pre pictures above, no amount of brushing, or treats, or prayer will clean them. I have to clean them. Then you have to work out a home care program and do your part. Oh, yeah, when your veterinarian tells you the teeth are bad, don't answer with, we just had his teeth cleaned last year. Look in the mouth and have the doctor show you the problem. Then the two of you need to come up with a plan to treat the problem and then prevent the problem from coming back so soon.

You may have noted a bit of terseness in my tone for this post. You are correct, I am ranting again. Next to overfeeding your pet, not taking care of it's mouth may be one of the worst things you can do. It will decrease lifespan and will make for a horrible quality of life for both of you.

I'll calm down now. I hope no one got bitten looking in their pet's mouth. I should have warned you to be careful earlier. I also wanted to thank my associate Dr. Brian Spar for the photos. He has an I phone and he will be glad to tell you how much better it is than any technology I could ever posses. (wait until his I phone 4 starts dropping calls). Also, special thanks to Kim Green for helping to display the oral cavities. She is our Licensed Veterinary Technician and she does our dental cleanings and takes the oral x rays for our patients. She will also be the one calling you to tell you if we need to do extractions or additional work.

One more post in this series, then it's on to another topic. I think there is an over/under poll going on as to how many days it will take me to finish off the series. I was really good for the first two.

Keith Niesenbaum, VMd

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