We all know that oral disease is common and humans but what most pet owners fail to realize is that these problems are also common in pets too. Although the tooth decay that plagues most humans, like gingivitis and cavities is normally not a problem in cats and dogs, your companion animals may be suffering from any number of other dental conditions including periodontal disease and fractured or eroded teeth.
Your general veterinarian will be able to assist you in monitoring your pet’s dental health at a basic level. Meaning they can see if there is a problem, but they might not be able to diagnose it. However, it can never hurt to consult a specialist on a yearly or twice yearly basis. Would you trust your dental health in the hands of your general medical practitioner? Of course not! Periodically, you need to visit your dentist. The same is true for your dog or cat.
The benefits that your pet can gain from proper dental care can be pain relieving in most cases and life saving in others. Periodontal disease, in particular, can have an adverse effect on your animal’s general health by affecting their immune and nervous systems. Therefore, by carefully tending to your pet’s dental needs, you may in effect add years to his or her lifespan.
Most general veterinarians have some training in animal dentistry, but often this training very limited. You are better off if you try to find a practitioner with specialized training in veterinary dentistry. After all, would you want your doctor at the family practice to be responsible for the care of YOUR teeth? Why would you want any less for your animal companion? Ask your vet about his or her previous experiences in dentistry, and don’t be afraid to ask for references. Just because someone has had training doesn’t mean they are the best pet dentist. Get references to find out if their work meets your expectations. Sometimes you may be surprised at what you learn.
Your ideal candidate is someone with a veterinary degree and a dental degree. A few such practitioners do exist but they are extremely rare. Most likely you will have to employ the services of someone with a veterinary degree only to care for your dog’s teeth unless you are willing to travel, sometimes far distances. Feel free to ask your vet about his or her dental qualifications and if they are prepared to care for your companion’s teeth. There are veterinarians out there with quite a lot of training and experience in canine and feline veterinary dental care, even if they don’t have a separate degree from a dental school.
Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, where nearly all of Texas Veterinarians train, is following the national trend toward increasing emphasis on dental training. Texas A&M has several faculty members who specialize in small animal dentistry and continue to require more and more dental training for their graduates. You may want to inquire as to what kind of training your vet had chosen in veterinary school and if he or she took any dental electives as part of his/her dental training.
There are a few clinics in Texas that specialize in Veterinary dentistry. In Houston, you can go to Veterinary Dental Services at 11001 Fondren Road, or Houston Veterinary Dental Clinic at 9695 Southwest Freeway. The local Pet Vet chain of animal hospitals, at 4520 Katy Freeway in Houston, also offers specialized dental services. In Austin, look into the Animal Dental Clinic at 12129 Ranch Road.
Do not underestimate the importance of finding appropriate dental care for your pet. Studies show that a majority of adult dogs and cats suffer from periodontal disease-most of which goes untreated. Finding appropriate dental treatment for your animal will probably make his or her life more comfortable-and might even make your pet’s life longer.