Did you know that pet dental care is not just about teeth? Although dental care for your pets may seem like a cosmetic issue, when your pet has red gums, yellow teeth, and stinky breath, it could be a sign of dental disease.
February is Pet Dental Health Month, and Braxton’s is marking the occasion by reminding pet owners about the importance of regular dental care for their four-legged friends. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three.
Oral disease can have a major impact on your pet’s organs, including his heart, liver, and kidneys. Studies show that by performing preventative dental maintenance, your pet’s life can be extended another two to three years.
Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by your veterinarian to check for early signs of a problem and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you observe any of the following problems:
- bad breath
- broken or loose teeth
- extra teeth or retained baby teeth
- teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
- abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
- reduced appetite or refusal to eat
- pain in or around the mouth
- bleeding from the mouth
- swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth
Some pets become irritable when they have dental problems, and any changes in your pet’s behavior should prompt a visit to your veterinarian. Always be careful when evaluating your pet’s mouth because a painful animal may bite.
Prevention of the most common oral disease in pets consists of frequent removal of the dental plaque and tartar that forms on teeth that are not kept clean. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings, and may reduce the frequency or even eliminate the need for periodic dental cleaning by your veterinarian. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible and brushing several times a week can be effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important. For easy, step-by-step instructions on how to teach a dog or cat to accept a daily tooth brushing, click here.
There are many pet products marketed with claims that they improve dental health, but not all of them are effective. Talk with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet, or ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.
How much do you know about your pet’s dental health? Take the AVMA’s dental health quiz here.
Fun Fact: Penn was the first veterinary school in North America to offer an organized program in veterinary dentistry and oral surgery.