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Floss for Fido and Fluffy

MU Veterinary teaching hospital gives bright smiles to pets
Monday, January 23, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 6:21 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Does your kitty have a cavity? Does your dog need braces? The folks at MU’s Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital can answer those questions and others about your pets’ dental health.

Their ability to treat pets’ teeth has also improved. Last February, the College of Veterinary Medicine received an $80,000 grant from Pfizer Animal Health and an internal vet school grant totaling $40,000 to provide new equipment and tools for its dentistry lab. The improved lab has two tables instead of one, allowing more procedures to be done. It also features a digital X-ray system that produces larger and more detailed images that can be e-mailed to other veterinary dentists for special advice.

Richard Meadows, clinical associate professor at the veterinary hospital, said veterinary dentistry is a required course for small-animal vet students.

“Most vet students realize the need for dentistry in their profession,” he said.

Meadows and his students provide dental care for about 10 animals a week, but the service is becoming more popular.

Jane Vail has been taking dogs and cats to Meadows for dental care for more than five years.

“We became aware of the importance of dental care when my husband’s Cairn terrier became very ill with kidney disease, and dental disease was thought to contribute to his death,” Vail said.

The Vail family’s pets have been to the lab for dental cleanings, abscesses, root canals and extractions. The Vails have also begun to use a waxy gel on their animals’ teeth, which helps prevent dental disease even if brushing is not done.

“The kind of care we receive ensures the health of our pets and gives us the satisfaction of knowing we are doing everything we can do so they can live a long and happy life,” Vail said.

Research shows that dogs 3 years or older have an 85 percent chance of suffering from dental disease, while cats that age have a 70 percent chance, Meadows said. If your pet is salivating excessively, dropping food from its mouth or refusing to eat, it might be experiencing dental problems that could lead to kidney, liver or heart disease if left untreated.

Certain breeds of dogs and cats are more prone to periodontal disease, which attacks the gums and bone around teeth. Dogs and cats build up tarter and plaque five times faster than people, so Meadows recommends brushing their teeth every other day with an approved toothpaste.

“Brush the teeth you want to keep,” he said.

While the Central Missouri Humane Society has no specific dental regimen for the animals it houses, it provides chew toys that can help reduce plaque. When people adopt pets with dental problems, the society recommends vets who are familiar with animal dentistry.

The veterinary college offers a range


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