February is National Pet Dental Month! According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats allegedly have symptoms of dental disease by age three! Beyond that, oral disease is also the most commonly diagnosed health issue for our canine and feline friends. We may hear about bad breath in pets all the time, but that doesn’t mean that it could be caused by something serious.
Periodontal disease has the same roots in dogs and cats as it does in people. Bacteria from food can build up in the oral cavity, and if it’s left untreated, the bacteria cause plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth and gumline. Over time, if the buildup is neglected, periodontitis can form, which is an irreversible condition involving gum inflammation and infection. If the gums are inflamed, they become separated from the teeth, thus allowing bacteria to enter and attack the tooth’s root. Furthermore, bacteria can also enter the bloodstream and venture on over to the heart, liver, kidneys, and other organs, and cause serious problems.
These are all reasons as to why it is very important to be proactive about protecting your pet’s health. Some warning signs that you can look for in your pet are: bad breath, yellow-brown crust on the teeth, bleeding gums, changes in eating/chewing habits, pawing at the mouth, and/or depression. These are all potential signs that the pet has an infection, and you should schedule a dental checkup as soon as you can. If the pet is in good health, one should schedule regular veterinarian visits anyway. A pet owner should schedule a professional cleaning to have the following done: tartar removal, cavity/growth check, diseased teeth extracted, and tooth polishing. Tooth polishing helps prevent the formation of new plaque/tartar buildup.
You should also practice regular brushing with your pet, and follow a home care regimen. You can introduce toothpaste to your pets by using a small amount on your finger and rubbing it on their teeth. Make sure to use a toothpaste that is specially made for cats and dogs. The next step is to have the pet lick the bristles of a toothbrush with the toothpaste on it. Then, you can begin brushing its teeth. This should be done twice every week. Don’t give up if your pet doesn’t seem willing to have its teeth brushed.
Also, certain pet foods actually help plaque/tartar removal, so you can look for that in stores. Ask your pet’s doctor for any advice. Good luck and spread the word!