• Pets need proper dental health care

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    February is National PetDental Health Month and the Fort Leavenworth Veterinary Treatment Facility, 831 McClellan Ave., is emphasizing the importance of dental health for furry family members.
    Throughout the month of February, the VTF will have free homemade dental treats, a homemade dental treat recipe and toothbrushes. The VTF will also be selling special pet-friendly toothpaste and oral rinses.
    “That’s the big one,” said Staff Sgt. Oliver Brunhoeber, registered veterinary technician and VTF noncommissioned officer in charge. “They can’t use human toothpaste because of the fluoride.”
    Pet dental health is just as important as human dental health, and regular exams and cleanings are important, Brunhoeber said.
    “Just like in people, they’ll get a buildup between their teeth, and their mouths have bacteria just like human mouths,” he said. “It creates a favorable environment (for) bacteria that starts to get in there and build up underneath the gum line.”
    The biggest benefit of regular checkups is the prevention of oral infections and catching problems early, such as oral cancer, Brunhoeber said. Complications can differ depending on when the infection is caught.
    “There can be weight loss if they’re not willing to eat. One really obvious indication (of an infection) is if you see an animal eating and they drop food while they’re eating. It’s a sign that they have pain in their mouth,” Brunhoeber said.
    “If we catch it early enough, we can sometimes save teeth and prevent them from having to be pulled, but if it goes on too long then the tooth usually ends up having to be pulled.”
    Brunhoeber said bad breath can be a sign of possible oral infection as well.
    There is significant difference between dental health care for pets and humans.
    “In order to get a really good cleaning on a pet, they have to go under anesthesia,” Brunhoeber said. “Generally, we have them dropped off in the morning and they’re usually ready to go home in the afternoon.”
    Brunhoeber said the procedure can last anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half depending on the examination, cleaning and whether any teeth have to be pulled.
    “Cats’ mouths are a little smaller and the teeth are a lot pointier. So, cat cleanings generally go a little quicker, but (the procedure) is similar,” he said. “They get an IV catheter, they get stationed, go under anesthesia, we examine and clean the teeth, polish them and then wake them up.”
    Though oral examinations are important for all pets, Brunhoeber said it’s especially important for smaller dog breeds.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Usually small dogs have the worst trouble, like Chihuahuas, (miniature pinschers), and pugs. Small-mouthed dogs, their teeth are crowded, they’re closer together and they tend to build up more bacteria,” he said.
    “Owners also tend to give them soft foods which seems to cause more problems than dry kibble. The food particles stay between the teeth and they don’t get cleaned out and then that allows the bacteria to build on it and feed. We call it calculus because it’s almost like a rock on their teeth.”
    Brunhoeber said there are several things pet owners can do at home to help with their pet’s dental health such as dental treats and regular brushing to keep their teeth clean, but the yearly oral exam is the most important thing.
    “Usually when an animal is about 3 years old, it needs its first good cleaning. Some dogs and cats will need to get their teeth cleaned every year, other dogs and cats might be able to go a few years between cleanings,” Brunhoeber said. “However, the most important thing is the annual oral exam just to see if there’s anything going on and make sure their teeth are in good shape.”
    Brunhoeber said the benefits of regular checkups are twofold for the owner and the pet.
    “Hopefully it improves the relationship between the pet and the owner. You don’t want a dog or cat with a really stinky mouth in your face,” he said. “But, also, I do believe it does help give them a better quality of life if their teeth are clean and it’s not painful when they’re eating. It’s just a good an idea to keep an eye on their mouth so that we know everything is good in there.”
    The VTF was officially accredited by the American Animal Hospital Association March 16, 2017, which has allowed the VTF to better serve clients and patients. In additon to dental cleanings, the VTF provides vaccinations, wellness exams, surgeries and flea, tick and heartworm prevention.
    The VTF is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to make an appointment, call 684-6510.
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