Last week, it was promised that we would continue our discussion on Gingivitis (Sore gums), specifically with the treatment of this ailment.

As we emphasized in the previous article, Gingivitis is not as easily curable as other diseases, since it often is an expression of another more fundamental problem. We had mentioned tartar (plaque or dental calculus) build-up, recession of the gums, root abscesses, tooth decay as more fundamental causes of the problem.

pet cornerIt is logical, therefore, that any treatment of Gingivitis must first focus on the primary ailments. If tartar accumulation is the foremost problem (tartar is an excellent medium for bacterial growth, it seems) then we must remove these chemical substances that are firmly affixed to the teeth (especially the canines, premolars and the molars). This entails scraping off the plaque.

Now, this previous sentence might give the impression that this manipulation is a simple task. It is not. For one thing, no self-respecting dog will allow you to enter its mouth with a scraper and begin to carry out the plaque removal exercise. In all likelihood, you will also not possess the special instrument needed to scrape off the tartar deposit. So this whole exercise should better be left in the skilful hands of your veterinarian, especially since the dog may need to be severely sedated or even generally anaesthetized, prior to the undertaking.

Very important in the treatment of Gingivitis is general oral hygiene. Now it is clear that you can’t use one of the commercial tooth pastes that we humans use, nor can we ask the dog to rinse its mouth and gargle. Again, oral hygiene requires an effort. My old professor advised brushing dogs’ teeth with a toothbrush coated with cigar ash. To this day, I can’t understand this reasoning, and since I never tried this method, I don’t know of the success rate. However, we can brush a dog’s teeth and flush the gums with a three per cent Hydrogen Peroxide (my old favourite) solution, or with a 0.2 per cent Chlorhexidine solution.

Some people advocate the use of baking soda as a good agent with which to brush a dog’s teeth. I’d have to agree (since they are putting it into toothpastes destined for humans use), but not having used baking soda within the oral hygiene treatment regime of dogs and cats, I can’t swear to its efficacy.

Don’t use human toothpaste to keep dogs’/cats’ teeth clean. The mint taste is not appreciated and will elicit a lot of salivation. The whole exercise will surely be messy and too strenuous.

Lastly, since there is almost always a heavy bacterial presence by the time you see the symptoms of Gingivitis, you may need – under veterinary supervision – to include a broad spectrum antibiotic and possibly an anti-inflammatory drug in the therapeutic arsenal.


Warts (Oral Papillomatosis)

This is a viral disease associated with younger dogs (puppies; dogs less than one year of age).

These warts are unsightly cauliflower-like growths which emerge on the lips, inside of the cheeks and on the tongue. They are painless, but sure look bad; and the puppy is not too happy with these warts. In fact, they can grow to such a size as to make the consumption of food uncomfortable.

At the outset, these growths begin as tiny white bumps. Later, they develop into pinkish nodules then into rough grey-white or grey-black warts. If left to develop unchecked, the entire cavity, including the hard and soft palate, will exhibit these growths. The literature says that if we leave the warts alone, they will all disappear in due course.

Well, that might be so, but which loving, caring pet owner will allow these grotesque cauliflower-like growths to take over the entire mouth. These growths are not aesthetic, and they produce an offensive and foul-smelling breath.

We advise that these warts be excised about two weeks or a bit less after they appear. If we cut/cauterize the growths too early, we may miss some that will emerge later. Then we have to do the surgery all over again. If we remove them at the closing stages of the wart development, then the pup/young dog would have suffered too long unnecessarily. After two weeks, we’ll probably be able to capture all of the nodules that will ever appear.

There is one good side to this disease. Once the animal has recovered well from the ordeal, immunity is built up, and the malady cannot recur.


Enlarged Gums

There is a type of Gingivitis (especially to be found in Boxers and Bulldogs) in which the gums become very enlarged, so much so as to cover a major portion of the teeth. This means, of course, that as the dog or cat eats, the gums are bitten. In the ensuing lesions, food particles are lodged and bacteria get a chance to flourish in the wounded tissue. All in all, the entire oral hygiene effort, as described before, becomes compromised.

I should mention, in passing, that there is a form of gingival hypertrophy in which the growing tissue forms a huge mass (benign growth, not cancer) covering the teeth even. Obviously, under such conditions the jaws cannot close. This special type of gum enlargement is called Epulis. It is found more often in the short-faced dogs (Pekinese, Boxers, Bulldogs).

Surgical intervention is the only prudent solution.

Ok, enough of the gum problems. Remember that if you must purchase something for your pet during your Christmas shopping, you may wish to check with your vet relative to the gift’s appropriateness.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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