February 2017 – How to identify signs of dental pain in your pet
We all know how important regular dental care is for ourselves and our children. We don’t even think twice about daily brushing, annual check-ups and professional cleanings. Having our pets teeth checked regularly once or twice per year is just as important. Veterinarians can help pet owners grade their pet’s teeth.
Unfortunately, dental disease often reaches critical stages before most pet owners realize anything is wrong. The biggest reason for this is that pets hide their dental pain so well. So what are the signs?
In the vast majority of cases, our pets do not let a painful mouth stop them from eating. It requires careful observation by the pet owner. You might observe your pet going to his/her food bowl and then turning away at some point. Watch for signs of slow, deliberate chewing, preferentially chewing on one side or swallowing food whole without chewing. Sometimes vomiting and gulping is a sign of dental pain. It hurts to chew. Without proper dental care to correct the problem, preferential chewing may cause accumulation of more plaque and tartar buildup on the painful side. You may notice cats in particular may be more selective with their food, preferring canned food to dry food. Cats also may become more quiet or less social.
Dogs experiencing dental pain may become more lethargic or less playful. In the case of a senior dog, the owner may assume the slowdown is simply part of the aging process, when in fact, the dog is in pain. Remember, the most common sign of dental pain is no outward sign at all.
Veterinarians are trained to recognize the signs of dental pain during routine examinations. A good example of potential pain in his/her mouth is when a pet is cooperative for a physical exam but is very reluctant to allow someone look in their mouth. Some other signs of pain are really red gums, bad breath, chipped teeth, receding gums, bone loss, and stomatitis.
Is periodontal disease painful? Yes! Veterinary dentistry commonly sees more severe forms of periodontal disease that is typically more rare in human dentistry. Marked root exposure, tooth mobility and progression from periodontal disease to involvement of the inside of the tooth can cause significant discomfort. (Photo: Grade 4 dental disease)
Most of the time it’s not until after a patient receives digital dental X-rays and appropriate dental treatment before an owner realizes their pet was in pain. Once the pain is removed then and only then do owners notice a positive difference in their pet’s energy level, eating habits and overall wellbeing.
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