Dental Disease

Dental disease, also called periodontal disease, is one of the most common clinical conditions seen by our veterinarians. This comes as no surprise when we consider that most adult dogs and cats show some signs of the disease by the time they reach 3 years of age. If left untreated, pet dental disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, infection, and even damage to the vital organs, such as the heart. We’d like to place the spotlight on periodontal disease and what pet owners can do to prevent and treat this serious condition.

What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease in pets occurs when plaque film and tartar (hardened plaque) build up on the teeth both above and below the gumline. This accumulation irritates the gum tissue and allows bacteria to flourish, leading to damage of the supportive structures of the teeth, which are the gums and the fibrous connective tissue that connects the roots of the teeth to the surrounding alveolar bone. Significant pain, oral infection, bone and tooth loss, and even health problems and infections in other body systems such as the kidney and heart can occur as a result of untreated periodontal disease.

Stages of Pet Dental Disease

Pet dental disease can be broken down into four stages, as follows:

Stage 1 – This early stage is characterized by gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums in response to the presence of tartar and bacteria. You may observe some swelling of the gums. A thin red line on the gums next to the teeth may also be visible during this stage. A professional dental cleaning at this stage can help prevent progression and future tooth loss.

Stage 2 – Also known as early periodontitis, this stage occurs when there is a small amount of bone loss – less than 25% – visible on oral radiographs. You may notice inflammation of your pet’s gums, bad breath, and some visible plaque and tartar. A professional dental cleaning can help to thoroughly remove the plaque and tartar, and to reverse the progress of dental disease.

Stage 3 – Serious dental damage begins to occur at stage 3, also known as moderate periodontitis, when 25-50% bone loss is visible on oral radiographs. Gums will be swollen and irritated, and probably bleed easily. There is loss of gum attachment to the tooth, forming areas known as periodontal pockets. Your pet may also experience bad breath and significant pain, and need to have infected and/or damaged teeth removed.

Stage 4 – Extreme, chronic periodontal disease is evident in the 4th and final stage, where bone loss of 50% or higher is visible on oral radiographs. Your pet is not only in severe pain, it is at risk of losing multiple teeth, as well as systemic infection and damage to internal organs, due to bacteria from the mouth entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body.

Don’t wait until its too late. Schedule your pets yearly dental cleaning today. To help ensure that all pets are receiving the dental care that they need, we will be offering 20% dental procedures now through the end of February.  


Dentistry & Anesthesia

What is anesthesia-free dentistry? This is a service you may have seen advertised, but is not what it sounds. Un-trained and un-licensed people are advertising this service as an alternative to a professional cleaning. Well meaning owners may be tricked into thinking they are helping their pets by paying for their pet to be held down and mouth scraped with sharp metal instruments to remove visible tartar buildup. What you may not realize is that this type of practice can cause harm to your pets mouth and does nothing to help prevent dental decay.

Fact: The most important part of a dental cleaning is what goes on below the gum line. This is where the tooth root is located and this is the area where plaque and tartar can lead to gingivitis, tooth loss and periodontal disease. Without general anesthesia cleaning below the gum-line is not possible. Scraping only the visible tartar may help make the smile look better in the short term, but does nothing for the health of the pet.

Fact: Scraping the teeth forcefully with sharp instruments in an awake animal can be dangerous. Remember from our own dental cleanings, the scraping of tartar is not the most comfortable of procedures. An awake animal is unlikely to stay still, have their mouths held open, and allow this procedure without putting up a struggle. Having a sharp instrument in the mouth of a struggling pet is not safe.

Fact: Ultrasonic scaling and professional polishing helps prevent micro-fractures of the tooth enamel surface. This cannot be done in an awake animal, requires professional veterinary dental equipment, and requires intubation (a breathing tube to protect the airway) which helps prevent water from back-flowing in the trachea, which can cause serious health problems. Intubation can only be performed under general anesthesia by a licensed veterinarian.

Fact: Under general anesthesia, the doctor is able to probe the gum line looking for “pocketing” between the tooth and gingiva. This may indicate a tooth root abscess, a painful condition that requires extraction of the diseased tooth to resolve. These type of examination and procedures can only be performed by a trained veterinary medical professional.

Fact: Anesthesia free dentistry businesses are illegal. The California Veterinary Medical Board is currently working to shut down these companies. The practice is most commonly advertised and performed by pet store workers or groomers, who may even market themselves as “pet dental hygienist” but this is simply a fictitious marketing slogan as they have no formal education, training, or certification to be performing these procedures. Would you trust your dentist to cut your hair, or you hairdresser to perform your dental work?

Fact: The only reason these “anesthesia-free cleanings” are popular is due to public fear of anesthesia. In reality current veterinary anesthesia protocols use the same equipment, medications, and safety protocols as in human medical practice. Have more questions or concerns? Give us a call!


Dental Facts

Dogs start out with 28 deciduous (baby) teeth, cats start out with 26 deciduous teeth. By six months of age, these baby teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth, 42 in the dog and 30 in the cat.

80% of dogs and 70% of cats are estimated to have dental disease by age 3.

Dental disease not only causes bad breath, but it leads to pain, infection, tooth loss, bone loss and jaw fractures, painful abscesses and eventually can even result in injury to your pet’s internal organs. The importance of dental care can’t be stressed enough!

Plaque and dental tartar may contain up to 100,000,000,000 bacteria per gram!! That’s a WHOLE lot of bacteria that may be harbored in your pet’s mouth waiting to cause disease and decay!

Regular and professional dental care is key to maintaining good oral health.

Due to pre-screening, advanced monitoring techniques, and today’s safer anesthetics, dental procedures have never been safer. Routine home care in conjunction with professional cleaning is important for best results.While plaque can be brushed away with routine home care, tartar removal requires a professional dental cleaning. Plaque turns into tartar within 48 hours, so to make a difference teeth need to be brushed every day.

To brush your pets teeth at home, you may use a thin cloth around your finger, finger toothbrush, or dental wipes such as Oraclens wipes, which can make brushing much easier. Any toothpaste made for dogs and cats is fine to use, but avoid human toothpaste as it contains flouride that can be toxic if swallowed.


Dental X-Rays

Intra oral radiographs (x-rays) are an important part of your pet’s dental care. Remember much of the tooth lies under the gums. The only way to evaluate the root structure, the inside of the tooth and the supportive bone is to take x-rays. Dental radiography allows for diagnosis of certain diseases, plan for the appropriate treatment as well as monitoring for treatment success. Without dental x-rays, important dental diseases can be missed.

There are many reasons that the doctor may feel that dental x-rays are needed, including:
  • Missing or fractured teeth
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • A tooth that is discolored
  • Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL) are present (similar to a cavity)
  • Periodontal disease is present
  • Before a surgical extraction of a tooth

At Parktown Veterinary Clinic we use digital x-rays, the most advanced form of dental radiography. X-rays are taken during your pets dental cleaning and only takes a few seconds to appear on the computer screen. The doctors are able to fully evaluate your pet’s teeth and determine the right course of treatment. X-rays are recommended by the doctor when a suspicious tooth is noted on oral exam, however, full-mouth x-rays (as performed yearly by human dentists on our own mouths) are available at an owner’s request.



Western medical acupuncture is a therapeutic modality involving the insertion of fine needles. It is an adaptation of Chinese acupuncture using current knowledge of animal physiology, anatomy and pathology, and the principles of evidence based medicine.

Here at Parktown we can use medical acupuncture to treat a variety of diseases and conditions in your animal friend:
  • Musculoskeletal/Orthopedic: Arthritis, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, chronic pain
  • Neurologic: Intervertebral disk disease, nerve injury/paralysis, seizures
  • Gastrointestinal: Inflammatory bowel disease, Constipation, Poor appetite
  • Respiratory: Sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma
  • Urinary: FLUTD/Idiopathic cystitis, Kidney pain/disease, recurrent urinary tract infection
  • Dermatologic: Atopy, dry skin, allergies
  • Endocrine: Chronic kidney failure, Diabetes, Cushings
  • Other: Cancer pain, homeostasis management, agility/performance enhancement
Endorphin release is a natural result from the placement of acupuncture in target locations near nerves, vessels and muscles. This makes therapy generally relaxing and enjoyable for the pet and owner.

Let us help your pet live a full, active life. Consult with Dr. Cheryl Thur about how physical medicine techniques such as acupuncture, massage and laser therapy treatment can improve quality of life for your pet.


Canine Coginitive Dysfunction

Canine Coginitive Dysfunction, also known as CCD, is an age related degenerative process of the brain, similar to Alzheimer’s humans. The check list below list some of the more common signs seen with this syndrome. Remember, the first step in establishing a diagnosis of CCD is a trip to the vet as the symptoms can mimic the signs of other diseases that may require immediate treatment. One study at UC Davis found that out of 69 dogs participating, 32% of the 11-year old dogs were affected by this syndrome and 100% of the dogs 16 years of age older were affected

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction can include:
  • dogs may appear lost or confused
  • changes in relationships with family members and even difficulty recognizing owners
  • pacing, restlessness, walking aimlessly, especially at night
  • decreased interest in activities
  • sleeping more during the day and less at night
  • house soiling in previously housetrained dog
  • not coming when called, not following previously established house rules
The exact cause of CCD is unknown, but it is thought that the body’s normal degenerative and age-related changes contribute to the dysfunction. These changes include central nervous system deterioration, oxidative stress, accumulation of free radicals, and cell death. This is a progressive disease so symptoms tend to get worse over time. Treatment is aimed at slowing the progression of disease and lifelong therapy required.  The disease cannot be cured, but the condition can often be improved with early intervention.

Training activities for the brain that promote brain stimulation such as kong toys, fetch, hide- and-seek treat games. Swimming, walks, and other outdoor activities can boost serotonin activity which can help with anxiety. Remember, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks and training activities can promote brain stimulation and help maintain cognitive abilities. If your pets vision is still good, teaching hand signals can help you and your pet cope if hearing loss should develop. Food storage and puzzle type toys can be used for feedings. Alterations to the pet’s environment can make it easier for the dog to get around, for example improving footing with carpet runners. In some cases, the dog may need to be taken outside more often and supervised to prevent bathroom accidents.

CereTrix is an oral supplement containing Ginkgo Biloba and L-Theanine in addition to several antioxidants. This combination of treatments can help dogs lacking mental energy, cognitive speed and focus. Melatonin supplements, such as melavet, given in the evenings can help reset the circadian rhythm to a proper sleep:wake cycle


Splenic tumors: How can you screen your pet?

Dogs presenting in a collapsed state is one of the most traumatic conditions we see as veterinarians. Splenic tumors are one of the most common causes for this presentation. The spleen is a nonessential organ that produces some blood cells and also helps to filter and remove old or damaged blood cells from the body. As other organs in the body work to perform these same functions, the spleen can be surgically removed when necessary without causing harm. Splenic tumors often present as an emergency as the tumor is most often found when it decides to bleed, causing the animal to feel weak and anemic and sometimes collapse. At this stage of the game, the animal is very critical and emergency surgery and often a blood transfusion is needed. How can we avoid this? Catching splenic tumors early is the best way to remove them before an emergency arises as well as to have the best chance of removing the tumor before it has spread. However, dogs with early splenic tumors generally appear otherwise healthy and may show no signs of illness making catching the tumors in early stages difficult.

One way we can screen for problems such as splenic tumors is through the use of abdominal ultrasound. Did you know Parktown offers in-house abdominal ultrasound that can be performed same day? Call us for details (408)263-3990.