Dog yawning

Preventative dental care provides a solid foundation on which your pet can enjoy a longer, healthier life. When your companion’s teeth or gums are not properly cared for, they face a greater risk of developing serious dental diseases that can spread to vital organs like the heart, lungs, and kidneys. ZippiVet Animal Hospital uses comprehensive pet dentistry services, including routine preventative care and advanced treatment of existing problems in order to protect your pet’s mouth.

Routine dental exams should begin at 8 weeks of age. Our skilled Austin veterinarians will examine your pet’s teeth and gums for evidence of any potential dental problems. We will use digital radiographs (X-rays) to gather additional information that is vital to evaluating your cat or dog’s oral health. Dental cleaning using an ultrasonic scaling technique and polishing is also an essential component of your pet’s long-term oral care.

For patients that require more aggressive therapy, we offer a broad range of advanced treatment options such as tooth extractions and minor oral surgery.

Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will provide you with any tips, guidance, advice, and demonstrations you need to maintain quality dental care at home. Together, we will work to improve your companion’s chances of achieving a happy, healthy smile for life!

Why dental care is important

By 3 years of age, almost 85% of pets suffer from periodontal disease—a progressive bone loss caused by infection in the gums. Unfortunately, once the disease occurs there is no cure. However, it can be treated and prevented with thorough regular care.

It is important to continue your pet’s dental care at home. Pets can be trained to accept normal tooth brushing, and your ZippiVet veterinarian can help you develop a technique that works for you. In addition, oral rinses, special diets and chews can play a significant role in protecting your pet from dental problems, painful gums, and decaying teeth.

At-home brushing

Maintaining your pet’s oral hygiene at home can make a tremendous difference for comfort and health. All at-home methods share the goal of trying to prevent and control periodontal disease by minimizing plaque and tartar.

Here are several tips for you to follow when brushing your pet’s teeth at home:

  • Avoid human toothpastes. They contain abrasives and high-foaming detergents that should not be swallowed or inhaled by animals.
  • Use toothbrushes designed for dogs. They are soft and angled to assist in brushing the back teeth. Some dogs prefer finger brushes.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth regularly. This is the single, most effective way to maintain oral health between professional exams at ZippiVet.

What to expect during a cleaning

When you come into our facilities for a professional dental cleaning, you can expect the following:

  • A review of the pet patient’s general health and his or her previous dental history.
  • Pre-operative bloodwork to evaluate the general health of your pet.
  • Anesthesia to allow for thorough, safe dental cleaning. This enables us to perform a comprehensive assessment of tissues, make dental radiographs and complete scaling and polishing procedures above and below the gum line.
  • A close monitoring of all of your pet’s vitals, including respiration rate, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and body temperature.
  • A careful awakening from anesthesia, followed by a monitored recovery in our top-notch hospital.
  • Follow-up and home care instructions upon release.

Dental health guidelines for dogs

Dog chewing on a toy

Based on veterinarian reports, up to 85% of young dogs suffer from periodontal disease.
This can lead to bone and tooth loss and infection. These infections have the potential to spread to vital organs in the body such as the heart, lungs, and kidneys, which is why it’s important to check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly for signs of problems.

Simply check their mouth by lifting the lips and looking at the teeth and gums. If the gums are pink and tight and the teeth are white, they’re in good shape. If gums are red, white, or swollen, or if the teeth are very yellow or brown, it may be time to schedule a professional cleaning.

Other signs of gingivitis, periodontal disease, or other oral health problems include:

  • Excessive or chronic drooling
  • Lumps on the gums which could be tumors
  • Hard bumps and cysts under the tongue
  • Pockets in the gums or loose teeth

If your dog shows any of these symptoms, you should see your veterinarian immediately.

Other mouth disorders that are common to dogs and require treatment include:

  • Gingivitis: an inflammation of the gums from bacteria, plaque and tartar buildup.
  • Halitosis: bad breath, which is often the first symptom of a mouth disease.
  • Inflamed Gums: this occurs from tartar and food buildup between the teeth.
  • Proliferating gum disease: when the gums grow to cover the teeth, infection can occur. This is especially common to bull terriers and boxers.
  • Tumors and Cysts: appear as lumps in the gums or blisters near the jaw and under the gums.
  • Canine distemper teeth: eroded and decaying teeth as a result of distemper.

Most veterinary experts believe that your dog’s teeth should be brushed daily. But at ZippiVet, we understand that dogs have their own personalities and this may not be a realistic expectation. We recommend that you try to brush your dog’s teeth at least three times a week. ZippiVet's veterinary staff will help you find techniques that make this process a little easier for both you and your dog.

Dental health guidelines for cats

Kitten meowing and showing teeth

Cats are at severe risk for periodontal disease. But cats also face additional problems that are not common in dogs. Among these are tooth resorption, fractured teeth, and feline stomatitis.

Tooth resorption

Unfortunately, feline tooth resorption affects over half of all adult cats. The condition is marked by lesions where the tooth and gum meet. If your cat is experiencing tooth resorption, it will look like the gum tissue is covering or growing into the tooth, or like there is a hole in the tooth. In some cases, tooth resorption is not obvious without dental radiography.

Since cats are experts at hiding pain, it’s important to bring them in for regular, thorough oral checkups. In most cases, the best treatment for resorption is an extraction of the infected tooth. Our friendly and experienced veterinarians can treat this problem with gentle care and precision.

Feline stomatitis

Another common dental issue for cats is stomatitis. This debilitating condition is defined as an ulceration or severe inflammation of the mouth. If not treated, stomatitis can lead to tooth resorption, so it’s important to look out for the following signs:

  • Difficulty eating
  • Drooling
  • A lack of self-grooming
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Pawing at the mouth

Stomatitis may be a result of periodontal disease, a virus or other inflammatory conditions. In many cases, long-term treatment is required to control the problem. Such treatment can involve anti-inflammatory and pain medications, antibiotics, a soft food diet, and a thorough cleaning, which could include tooth extractions.

Fractured teeth

Tooth fractures—even minor ones—can expose the pulp and cause endodontic disease or pulpitis. Depending on the severity, the condition may be reversible or long term. Treatment for pulpitis is generally performed via a root canal, similar to those done on human patients. At ZippiVet, our team will implement treatment with the utmost care for your pet’s safety and comfort.

Whatever your cat’s treatment plan entails, you can rest assured he or she will be in good hands.