San Diego veterinarian discusses pet dental health
Who we talked to
Dr. Gary Rose, a native of Davison, Mich., moved to San Diego and started Cabrillo Pet Hospital after receiving his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Michigan State in 1973.
He is a member of the national, state and county veterinary associations as well as the American Animal Hospital Association. His first pet was Tiska, a German shepherd-boxer mix.
"I think everybody remembers their first pet," he says. He and his wife Leslie's current pets include one dog, four cats, four Koi fish and three kids.
Why should pets get regular dental care?
"I think it's an overall health maintenance issue. We're finding that many diseases are tied to overall dental care. It's probably the most cost-effective way to lengthen their life span. Dental care is often overlooked by the owners."
What kinds of dental services do you offer?
"We do mostly cleaning, extractions and gingival surgery. We've done some root canals, but not many. We know a vet who specializes in root canals who we refer in those cases.
"Pets typically need things like vaccines and dental care once a year. Some pets can go four or five years without a cleaning, depending on their diet."
What do you do during a checkup?
"It's like any physical. We check their weight and temperature, get their history and habits. We try to look at everything. We listen to the heart and lungs, feel the abdomen - we can tell a lot by feeling a pet's abdomen.
"We run our hands over their skin, feeling for abnormalities. We perform a rectal exam, if they're big enough, and examine the tonsils, teeth, gums and ears. You try to scan everything.
"The owner is going to miss a lot because an animal can't tell them their tooth hurts."
Are there any common warning signs for dental problems?
"No. 1 would be bad breath. No. 2 would be failure to eat. Those are the most common, followed by excess salivation."
What can a pet owner do at home?
"You can use certain foods to combat the process. I like crunchy dry foods. There are some particular foods, like Hill's Science Diet RX t/d, that are great for preventing dental problems.
"I would recommend brushing; nothing is better than the physical act of rubbing away food as often as possible. Once a day would be better than once a week. Once a week would be better than once a month.
"But the food is hard to get off after two or three days. There are dog toothbrushes and toothpaste - like liver-flavored toothpaste - that work great, and the dogs seem to enjoy.
"We actually send home with every patient a sample bottle of chlorhexidine. It's an antibacterial rinse similar to the mouthwashes we use.
"Rawhide chews do seem to help. What you don't want is the nylabones or body parts like cow hooves, which will break their teeth.