Dogs and cats can experience oral health problems in every life stage. Oral disease and tooth damage can affect pets' quality
of life and overall health. The key to successful prevention is client education, which needs to start early—and recur often.
Clients can be reluctant to make oral health care a priority, but with the advent of chewing-based products, home care is
now more convenient—and effective—in protecting pets of all ages.
Dr. Karyl Hurley: In today's discussion, we will focus on life stages in cats and dogs, particularly as they pertain to oral health. Let's
begin by defining life stages.
Karyl Hurley, DVM, DACVIM, DECVIM-CA, Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, Leicestershire, England
Dr. Brook Niemiec: The adage of seven pet years to one human year is not accurate. Cats are more standardized, but determining when old age
begins for different dog breeds can vary greatly. A Great Dane is incredibly different from a Chihuahua. So if we are trying
to base life stages on age, we are going to have to adjust it for giant, large, medium, and small dogs.
It is generally accepted that by traditional standards, the juvenile or pediatric stage is up to six months of age. Between
six months and two years is adolescence. After that it depends on breed as to when the pet is considered middle-aged or geriatric.
Anything over six or seven years is considered mature to old.
Brook Niemiec, DVM, DAVDC, Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialties, San Diego, Calif.
Dr. Margie Scherk: Traditionally life stages have been discussed and defined with respect to nutrition, but I think that there are other parameters
that we need to consider.
Dr. Jan Bellows: I think the juvenile stage is longer than six months, when you consider dentistry. Adult teeth start erupting at four months
of age and should be present in the mouth by ten months, but it may be up to a year and a half before you see how all of the
permanent teeth will settle into the dog's occlusion.
Jan Bellows, DVM, DAVDC, DABVP, Hometown Animal Hospital and Dental Clinic, Weston, Fla.
Niemiec: And you have to start thinking about periodontal disease at six months of age rather than at a year. I've seen Yorkshire
terriers, poodles, and Maltese that have needed extractions as early as nine months of age. Cats, too. As soon as those permanent
teeth are in, we need to start looking for and discussing periodontal disease with our clients.
Hurley: What are the most common dental issues you see with each life stage?
Bellows: In the juvenile animal, retained deciduous teeth, unerupted teeth, and malocclusions are what we worry about. In middle age,
we concentrate on periodontal disease, oral masses, and tooth fractures. In older age, we have to consider progression of
periodontal disease, neoplasia, and the other oral diseases.
Debbie Boone, Chief Operating Officer, Reidsville Veterinary Hospital, Reidsville, N.C.
Debbie Boone: You have to think about chewing damage, too, in young animals. Owners don't realize that many hard "chew toys" cause dental