By Deborah Fegan, DVM
When I graduated from veterinary college many years ago, we did not study teeth in dogs and cats. I knew how many they had and when the adult teeth came in but little more. I hated the putrid smell coming from a yucky mouth. I thought that since their noses were so sensitive to smell, it must be overwhelming to always smell the stink and surely this must decrease their enjoyment of life.
Animals understand so much of their world through the sense of smell. Even their nose flaps are wonderfully designed to scoop scents from the air and direct them to the nasal passages, where the nose nerves pick them up, send them to the brain and tell them if food is near, or danger is close, or a friend is approaching.
What I did not know back then – and what many pet parents still do not realize – is just how much damage the yuck is doing.
Understanding ‘The Yuck’ of Dental Disease in Pets
About 25 years ago, veterinary medicine began to understand the concept of pain, largely because of the improvement in a pet’s joy when their dental disease was addressed. I began cleaning teeth and saw for myself the how happy they were when their teeth did not smell or hurt.
A dental machine was one of the first I chose to purchase when I started at Big Creek Pet Hospital. I was convinced that clean, disease-free teeth really improved my patient’s quality of life. I also noticed that pets with clean teeth tended to live longer, happier and healthier lives. I felt that this was related to being able to chew and eat well, thus supporting body functions better.
As more research became available, better nutrition was only a small part of the stinkin’ truth. The yuck dynasty wanted to take over the whole body!
Blood circulation to the mouth was picking up all that yuck. It tried to deliver it to the internal organs. The body’s immune defense system had to work overtime to destroy this yuck, but sometimes it lost the battle. Low grade infections would set up in the liver, kidneys, or even the heart. This infection would slowly destroy the organs and, as the function of these diseased organs became compromised, my patient did not feel well. Yes, their mouth hurt, but they also felt sluggish because their liver was not processing their food well, or the kidneys were allowing toxins to build up, or even their circulation was not as efficient. We were robbing years of life from them, and all because of a yucky mouth.
More Attention to Teeth, More Time with Your Pet
We could do better!
Now I look at every mouth I can. I grade the level of dental disease and work to prevent damage before it begins.
I want to celebrate every year I can with my patients. I do not want them to hurt. I want them to experience all the joy that they can fit into their lives. I want their owners to benefit from every minute that they can spend together.
Take it seriously when we say that dental disease is present and threatens to rob you of valuable time with your precious pet. Have those yucky teeth cleaned to keep your pet happier and healthier.
In short, get your pet in and we’ll get ‘the yuck’ out!