Don’t turn your nose to Fido’s or Fluffy’s bad breath! That odor might signify a serious health problem. That’s the message the American Veterinary Medical Association wants pet owners to consider during February, the National Pet Dental Health Month.
Dental health is important to your pet’s overall health, just as it is for humans. And because your pet can’t communicate internal pains and problems, it’s important that your pet’s teeth and gums be examined at least once a year by your veterinarian. Dental problems can cause, or be caused by, other health problems. These have the potential to damage not only your pet’s teeth and gums but its internal organs as well. X-rays may be needed to evaluate the health of the jaw and the tooth roots below the gumline. Thorough dental cleanings and evaluations are performed under anesthesia which lessens the stress and pain for your pet and allows for a better cleaning and x-rays.
Have your pet’s teeth checked sooner if you notice:
• bad breath
• broken or loose 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 even the most gentle critter in pain may bite.
Although cavities are less common in pets than in people, pets can have many of the same dental problems that people can develop:
• broken teeth and roots
• periodontal disease
• abscesses or infected teeth
• cysts or tumors in the mouth
• malocclusion, or misalignment of the teeth and bite
• broken (fractured) jaw.
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats. By the time your pet is 3 years old, it will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease, which will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Early detection and treatment are critical. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth. Other health problems found in association with periodontal disease include kidney, liver, and heart muscle changes.
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; cats can be a bit more resistant. Patience and training are important.
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.
This article is courtesy of the AVMA.