Purdue News

August 1, 2005

Top tips to make sure pets get good dental care

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Pets need dental care and special attention, and Lorraine Corriveau, a wellness veterinarian from Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, recommends the following:

1. Testing: Veterinarians can check an animal's teeth during its annual or semiannual checkup and suggest various ways to help ensure good dental health, but Corriveau urges pet owners not to wait for the annual exam if they suspect any problems.

2. Treatment: Once a problem is identified, the veterinarian can begin treatment that may include the same kinds of things a human dentist might prescribe.

3. Cleaning: Tartar control is important because it builds up on the teeth and may extend into the gums if not regularly removed. Tartar also harbors bacteria that, when the gums are red and inflamed and bleed easily, can get into the bloodstream and affect the heart, liver and kidneys. Dental cleaning for pets requires general anesthesia. The teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, polished and fluoride is applied. A full oral exam is also performed to look for small problems under the gums. Dental radiographs may be necessary to evaluate teeth roots.

4. Home care: The type of food pets eat can help pets that do not allow owners to brush their teeth regularly. Treats that help with tartar have been approved by the dental association and will have a dental approval label. If the pet allows, owners should use a toothbrush designed for pets so the gum tissue isn't damaged. Corriveau cautions against the use of human toothpaste because the fluoride in it may upset the pet's stomach and, if too much is ingested, can lead to toxicity. Instead, there are toothpastes made especially for pets with flavors such as poultry, beef, seafood, malt and vanilla mint.

"Older pets and certain breeds often have a great deal of difficulties with their teeth, so if pet owners are proactive with dental care, their pets will be able to age more gracefully," Corriveau says.

Corriveau reminds pet owners to always talk to their veterinarians if they have any questions concerning a pet's health or environment.

Corriveau is available to talk to media about all aspects of animal health, and is best reached by e-mail at corrivea@purdue.edu

Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, maggiemorris@purdue.edu

Source: Lorraine Corriveau, corrivea@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: This is part of a series of summer pet health care tips from Purdue's School of Veterinary Medicine. Specialists in all areas of animal care are available to talk to the media. For information, contact Maggie Morris, Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2432, maggiemorris@purdue.edu


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