February 10, 2017

February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Author: Meghan Flynn

Dental Health. Important For People. Important For Pets.

With February being National Pet Dental Health Month it is important that every pet owner knows the impact dental health can have on the overall health of their pets. Dental health care should be something you do with your pet regularly.

One step to improving your pet’s dental health is to make sure they see the vet at least once a year to check for early signs of potential problems and to keep their mouth healthy. A vet dentistry checkup, which would be a separate checkup from a regular vet visit, typically includes cleaning, adjustment, filling, extraction and repair of any of your pet’s teeth if necessary, as well as checking the jaw and gums. Some signs that your pet may need to be checked sooner are if they have broken or loose teeth, abnormal chewing or dropping food from their mouth when they eat, reduced appetite or refusal to eat, and pain around the mouth. Some causes of pet dental problems could be from broken teeth and roots, abscesses or infected teeth, cysts or tumors in the mouth, misalignment of the teeth and bite, broken or fractured jaw, palate defects, and periodontal disease.

As the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website points out, periodontal disease is a common dental condition among dogs and cats. Early signs of this disease can manifest by the age of three, and it can worsen as they get older. Early detection is very important to prevent any more problems and pain. Periodontal disease not only affects your pet’s mouth but also can be associated with the kidney, liver and heart. The way this disease starts is with plaque that hardens into tartar. Not all tartar is visible as it can be below the gumline which can then damage and infect the jaw bone and tissues that connect the teeth to the jaw bone. Treatment for this disease includes a thorough cleaning and x-rays to see how severe the problem may be.

Another aspect that is important in the yearly vet dental checkup is anesthesia. Anesthesia is important because this makes it much easier for a thorough cleaning of your pet’s teeth since your pet will not be moving around during the procedure. This also helps reduce pain and stress on your pet. Cats are also known to not tolerate their teeth being cleaned so having their yearly checkup is even more important.

According to the AVMA, some ways you, the owner, can help improve your pet’s dental health is brushing their teeth at home. Daily would be the preferred route but that is not always possible so several times a week is effective as well. Just making sure to minimize the buildup of plaque and tartar will help prevent dental problems and may even reduce the frequency of needing to go to the vet. The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) website points out that most dogs will eventually accept brushing and the best way to approach this is by going slowly and gradually, so they get used the idea of their teeth being brushed. According to the same site, chlorhexidine oral rinse and gel are the most effective anti-plaque products that are dog safe. It is also recommended to get a flavored version as the taste by itself can be bitter and your pet may not tolerate that.

There are also many pet products that claim to improve dental health yet many of them do not actually help so it is always best to talk to your vet first. Pet dental health is important and often overlooked…we wouldn’t go weeks without brushing our teeth, would we? So remember to keep your pets teeth looking white and shiny!

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