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February has been declared Pet Dental Month --and for good reason. The most common disease seen by veterinarians is dental disease. In fact, 75-85% of pets over the age of 2 have dental disease of some form. You’re probably thinking: Great, I don’t like going to the dentist, I can only imagine how my pet feels about it! The truth is, the same philosophy that applies to you and your family also applies to your pets when it comes to dental care. Below, we’ll discuss the importance of healthy dental practices for your pets and what you should do to ensure they have a comfortable and long, healthy life.
Poor dental habits for your pet can lead to a number of health issues throughout the rest of its body. American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) President Dr. Douglas Aspros said that, "Dental problems are extremely common, and many are painful and can lead to serious systemic conditions. An untreated dental infection can spread to the heart, kidneys and other organs, and suddenly become life threatening."
The first sign of dental problems in your pet is bad breath. Take a look inside of their mouth and check the teeth and gums. Yellow, brown, or discolored teeth are another sign. As dental disease progresses, you may notice loose teeth and red, inflamed gums. Both dogs and cats will show an uncharacteristic reluctance to eating food or playing with toys and an overall sense of lethargy. Cats may show decreased grooming and increased drooling. You may even see your pet pawing at its mouth, as its gums become irritated. If you see any of these symptoms, the AVMA recommends taking your pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible.
Checkups and cleanings
The best way to prevent dental disease from developing in your pet is to make regular appointments for health examinations with your veterinarian. After the exam, your vet may recommend an oral care regimen, schedule regular cleanings, or offer a specific treatment based on your pet’s current dental health.
Brushing and alternatives
Dr. Aspros acknowledges that only 1% of pet owners brush their pet’s teeth. Not only do more owners need to begin brushing, they also should use chew toys, treats and rawhides to help keep their pet’s teeth clean. Your veterinarian can recommend many of the products available to help maintain your pet’s oral health between checkups.
Foods that bear the VOHC® (Veterinary Oral Health Council) Seal of Acceptance ensure that they adhere to their strict standards and protocols. The VOHC® allow their seal to be used on products meant to help retard the development of plaque and tarter on the teeth of animals.
For now, though, good old dental habits like regular brushing, checkups as well as good eating habits are the best way to maintain proper oral health for your pet. While you or a family member can easily express oral discomfort, your pet cannot. It is important to keep an eye out for the above symptoms and follow a pro-active approach to avoid discomfort for your pet and more costly veterinary procedures down the road.