Ask The Vet – February is Dental Health Month

February is Pet Dental Health Month! Every year we set aside February as the month to remind owners that their pets have teeth and that your pet’s teeth need attention and proper care. I thought I would briefly go over what that means to those of you that share your life with a dog, cat, ferret, rabbit, some species of rodents, and even those who have a horse or pony.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets all have similar types of teeth. All three have carnivorous teeth – canines, incisors, premolars, and molars – they just have different numbers of certain teeth. Of course, all the teeth are surrounded by gums (gingival tissues) and the bones of the skull. The gingival tissue is where most problems happen in these animals and that is when teeth can become diseased, loose and tooth loss can occur. It is important that your pet is seen by a veterinarian on a regular schedule to assess their dental health. Home care should be aimed at keeping these teeth and gums as healthy as possible via brushing, wipes or rinses, diets and chews and regular home inspections by you.

Rabbits, guinea pigs, and chinchillas have slightly different teeth – they keep growing! While you don’t have to brush your rabbit’s teeth, every owner should be concerned with their care as dental disease is probably the most common problem we see in rabbits and some rodents.

Overgrowth of these teeth into the mouth and jawbone is the biggest dental problem I see with these pets. There are genetic links to bad teeth for some animals, but often lack of roughage in the diet is the main culprit.

Hamster, gerbils, rats, and mice are different from guinea pigs and chinchillas. While their front teeth grow continuously, their cheek teeth do not. Therefore, hay or roughage is not an important part of their diet. They can have problems with their incisors overgrowing, and some animals do need them trimmed on a regular basis if they aren’t wearing them down themselves. When it comes to their molars, the can have fractures and even get cavities.

If you are new to the horse world, or are even thinking about getting one, you should get yourself familiar with their dental care. Your veterinarian should check your horse’s teeth on a regular basis to see if they need to be floated (filed down), or if there are teeth that need to be extracted (wolf teeth). It’s been a while since I’ve had to float any horse’s teeth, but there are some wonderful new products that make it fast and easy for both the veterinarian and the horse. As you can guess, proper diet and roughage play an important role in equine dentistry as well.

If you happen to have a pet that I didn’t mention here, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have teeth. Please consult with your veterinarian about your individual pets’ dental needs and concerns. Oh, and keep smiling!