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Veterinarian opening the mouth of a dog

Dental Care for Dogs

One of the most common problems we encounter in our pets is dental disease. Bad teeth, left untreated, can cause pain and infection in our dogs and cats. It can be mild or serious and may affect your pet’s overall health. As part of our preventive health care, we do a thorough oral examination whenever possible, and may recommend brushing, dental treats, and/or dental cleaning in the clinic. We carry certain products which can assist in pet oral health.

Just like humans, our dogs and cats can benefit immensely from regular professional examinations and cleanings at our hospital.

What types of canine dental care services are offered at your hospital?

It’s Not Just a Cleaning, It’s a COHAT!

What exactly is a COHAT, you ask? It is an acronym coined by Veterinary Dentists that stands for “Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment.” It starts with thorough patient history, including a review of diet, chewing habits, and home care strategies currently in place, and as thorough an oral examination as the patient will allow in the examination room. It can allow us to find early signs of dental disease and develop a problem list.

Once a problem is identified, together with illustrative tools such as models and diagrams, our doctors will describe any current oral disease processes, and develop a treatment plan.

Grey divider line with paw print

A “dentistry” at Westbridge Veterinary Hospital is a complete oral examination under anesthesia. It is performed not only to clean the teeth but also to evaluate the oral cavity for any other problems that might be present. What we can’t see is more important than what we can. It is why “non-anesthetic” cleaning is NOT a viable option. At our hospital, every pet receives the following care to give our patients the maximum benefits:

  1. Prior to any procedure, a full physical examination is performed to ensure your pet is in good health. Note that the age of the patient is not a factor in preventing good dental care.
  2. Once your pet is sedated, we thoroughly evaluate the “bite” (the dental occlusion). This is how the teeth are aligned. Malalignment can cause pain and tooth loss if teeth are impacting each other inappropriately.
  3. Before the prophylaxis can begin, the patient must be placed under general anesthetic. This will greatly increase patient comfort and the effectiveness of cleaning. Also, it allows us to properly protect the lungs from the bacteria that is being removed from the teeth by placing an endotracheal tube.
  4. Once your pet is anesthetized, a detailed oral examination is performed. All hard and soft tissues of the oral cavity and are examined, and findings accurately recorded in the patient file.
  5. Whole mouth intra-oral dental radiographs are taken at this point. All dental patients require whole mouth intra-oral dental radiographs to allow assessment of the teeth and surrounding bone. Did you know that 60% or more of each tooth is hidden from view? Dental radiographs are required to provide optimal dental care for this reason.
  6. The mouth is flushed with an antibacterial solution.
  7. Dental calculus (tartar) is removed using an ultrasonic scaler.
  8. The soft tissues at several points around every tooth are probed, and abnormal depths are recorded on the dental chart.
  9. Crowns (the tooth surface above the gum line) are examined and explored for damage (abrasive wear, fractures, discolouration) and findings recorded on the chart.
  10. Following the more detailed clinical and radiographic examination, the treatment plan is created by the veterinarian. New findings and treatment options are communicated to the owner to obtain informed consent if extractions or other work by the veterinarian is needed.
  11. All teeth are hand scaled above and below the gum line to remove any remaining mineralized deposits (calculus, tartar).
  12. Teeth are polished above and below the gum line. This smooths the surface of the tooth, slowing the new accumulation of plaque and tartar.
  13. The oral cavity and gingival sulci (area of the gums that surround the teeth) is flushed to remove all debris.
  14. Your pet is then recovered in a warm and comfortable environment and will be ready to go home later that evening.
  15. We book your pet’s next COHAT. For cats and small/toy breed dogs, we recommend every 6-8 months and every 12-24 months for larger breed dogs.

What is pet dental radiography and what is it used for?

Digital dental radiography is an asset to a complete oral health examination. Below are some examples of where dental radiography has helped our patients and a more detailed description of its benefits:

  • Crown: The part of the tooth in the black portion of the image. It represents the part of the tooth that is visible in the mouth.
  • Enamel: It is the hardest substance in the body, and envelops and protects the inner portions of a tooth.
  • Dentin: A mineralized substance which makes up the bulk of a tooth, and serves to protect the pulp cavity (see below for definition).
  • Pulp Cavity: Seen as the darker gray line in the dentin, this is the central cavity of a tooth containing the pulp, including the root canal, containing blood vessels and nerves, allowing a fresh supply of nutrients and blood for each tooth.
  • Periodontal Ligament: Seen as a black line surrounding the root of the tooth, this is a group of specialized connective tissue fibers that attach a tooth to the alveolar bone within which it sits. These fibers help the tooth withstand the substantial compressive forces which occur during chewing and keep the tooth embedded in the bone.
  • Alveolar Bone: A thickened layer of bone lining containing the tooth sockets on bones that bare teeth.

How often should I brush my dog’s teeth?

Although brushing cannot completely replace a proper dental cleaning, scaling and polishing, ideally, a dog’s teeth should be brushed after each meal. But aiming for brushing at least once a day can greatly benefit your pet’s oral health.

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Dog thinking about ticks and fleas

Year-round protection means more peace of mind!

“Tick season” used to mean spring/summer/fall, with a break over the winter – the colder weather meant that we could take a break from worrying about these pesky bugs and the diseases they can transmit. But in the last few years, we’ve seen a change creeping up on us, with the weather staying warm later into the season, and spring arriving earlier each year – and the bugs are loving it! You may have already heard us talking about how any day that the temperature is above the freezing point, ticks are potentially active. This past year, we had days above 0°C in all 12 months! Ticks aren’t killed by the cold, they simply go dormant, waiting until it’s warm enough to come back out – so last year, even January and February had days warm enough for ticks to be active! This means that we are now recommending that all dogs (and cats that go outdoors) take advantage of year-round flea and tick protection. There are several options, our first choice being an all-in-one that protects against fleas, ticks, and heartworm, as well as providing regular deworming against roundworms. One pill, once a month – what could be simpler? If your pet is already on a monthly preventative, all you need to do is pick up a refill and continue throughout the winter months. If your pet hasn’t yet started on comprehensive parasite prevention, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have and set you up with the best option for your pet. What does this mean for testing? The 4DX test that we recommend most commonly screens for heartworm disease, Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasma. Heartworm is transmitted by mosquitoes (so every dog in Ontario is potentially at risk – at Westbridge we treat a few cases every year!), and the others are all transmitted via tick bites. We have seen an increase in Lyme-positive dogs in the last few years, one of the reasons we are recommending some of these changes. For better early detection and the safety of your pet, we are recommending annual 4DX testing for all dogs. This simple blood test can be done at any time, although the optimal time is in the spring. Catching disease early is key to successful treatment – and no matter how careful you are with preventative medications, there is always some risk of infection. As always, our veterinarians and registered veterinary technicians are available to answer any questions you may have about the best options for your pet. Email us at info@westbridgevet.com, or call us at 905-285-0002

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Last updated: December 17, 2020

Dear Clients,

With recent changes to restrictions on businesses, we are pleased to advise that effective May 19, 2020 some restrictions on veterinary practices have been lifted. Based on these changes, below are some important updates to our operating policies.

1. WE CAN NOW SEE ALL CASES BY APPOINTMENT ONLY

This includes vaccines, wellness exams, blood work, heartworm testing, spays and neuters, dental services, and more!

2. SAFETY MEASURES TO KEEP EVERYONE SAFE

3. OPERATING HOURS

We are OPEN with the following hours:

- Monday to Friday: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
- Saturday: 8:00 am - 1:00 pm
- Sunday: CLOSED

4. NEW PET OWNERS

Have you welcomed a new furry family member to your home? We’d love to meet them! Visit our Must Know New Pet Owner Information page for useful resources and helpful recommendations for new pet owners.

Thank you for your patience and understanding and we look forward to seeing you and your furry family members again!

Your dedicated team at Westbridge Veterinary Hospital