February is Dental Health Month and our pet of the month is a very special dog named Riley!
By 3 years of age 80% of cats and dogs have periodontal disease. This is why your veterinarian examines your pet’s teeth and oral cavity during every visit. Most pets require a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT) under anesthesia at least once a year.
People think that all veterinarians do during a “Dental” is clean their pet’s teeth. It is much more than that!
- Each individual tooth is examined and charted on all 4 sides (42 teeth for dogs and 30 for cats).
- All surfaces of each tooth are carefully cleaned and then polished.
- The entire oral cavity, including the vocal cords, epiglottis, hard and soft palates, tongue and lips are examined as well.
- Full mouth radiographs are obtained to evaluate the tooth roots and jaw bones as well. Did you know that 2/3 of a dog or cat tooth is below the gum line?
During Riley’s recent health exam, it was noticed that he had mild dental disease, so he was scheduled for a routine dental procedure.
Under anesthesia a comprehensive oral exam was performed. A flat oral tumor was noticed on his hard palate in the back of his mouth. The location was such that it would have been very difficult to see when he was awake. A biopsy was taken and the tissue was found to be a malignant melanoma.
Melanoma is the most common oral cancer in dogs and 80% metastasize. If Riley had not had routine dental care, his melanoma would have gone unnoticed much longer. This would have given the melanoma time to metastasize (spread beyond the mouth) and enlarge. Riley’s prognosis would have been very poor and there would be very limited treatment options available to him.
Because Riley’s melanoma was found early, it had not spread to other sites but it was too large to surgically remove. Riley was referred to an oncologist and it was decided to do radiation treatments. Riley tolerated his radiation treatments very well and did not become sick.
Today his tumor is almost undetectable and Riley is a healthy and happy boy! He will still need to be monitored closely as melanoma are difficult to cure.
Riley’s case is just one example where hidden disease was found during routine dental care.
Our pets easily hide oral pain and frequently won’t show us signs of pain until the disease is at an advanced stage. It is extremely difficult to do a thorough exam of your pets’ oral cavity while they are awake, and impossible to do dental radiographs.
To keep your pet happy and healthy do not forget their teeth. Dental care is just as important for our pets as it is for us!