February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and even though the month is coming to a close, it is important to keep up with your pet’s dental care year-round. Just like people, pets need daily brushing and regular checkups to maintain good oral health.
“Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs, even though it’s completely preventable,” says Dr. Cindy Charlier, a board certified veterinary dentist with the American Veterinary Medical Association. “Professional dental cleaning and periodontal therapy often comes too late to prevent extensive damage. Not only can it create medical problems in your pet’s mouth, but it’s also been known to cause damage to internal organs.”
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three. These signs can include bad breath, loose or discolored teeth covered in tartar, sensitivity in the mouth area, drooling or dropping food from the mouth, bleeding from the mouth, and loss of appetite or loss of weight. If your pet is showing any of these signs, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away.
Even if your pet is not showing any signs of oral disease, it is important to have your pet’s teeth checked at least once a year by your veterinarian. Most dental disease occurs below the gum line where you can’t see it, so damage may already be occurring even though the teeth look healthy.
Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth is the single most effective action you can take to keep your pet’s teeth healthy and possibly prevent most of the common oral diseases. According to Dr. Jan Bellows, former president of the American Veterinary Dental College, “Brushing is the gold standard, and many dogs and some cats will tolerate having their teeth brushed if the introduction to brushing is managed gently and gradually.” Providing your pet with chew toys that massage their gums and help keep their teeth clean is also a great idea. For tips on how to brush your pet’s teeth, watch this video from the AVMA.
Remember that animals often don’t give any indication that they are in pain or discomfort. Cats are especially good at hiding health issues, and often have more dental issues than dogs. The only way to be sure your pet’s mouth and teeth are truly healthy is to have an annual exam by a veterinarian.
By being aware of your pet’s dental health, you can help your pet live a happier, healthier, and longer life!
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