Welcome back to Buckley Veterinary Hospital’s monthly pet care column. This month, we are highlighting your furry family member’s oral health. February is National Pet Dental Month and, as such, we would like to shed some light on the importance of oral healthcare and the steps you can take to provide the best lives for your pets. We have combined tips from a variety of veterinary associations and providers to help provide an understanding of optimal pet dental care.
For the sake of your pet’s health and comfort, periodontal disease is a threat that can’t be ignored. Many of the clinical signs of the disease are hard to miss. Initial and latter signs that your dog or cat may be suffering from dental disease can include foul breath, discolored teeth, tartar build up, swollen, receding or bleeding gums and reluctance to eat or trouble eating. Late-stage periodontal disease can cause permanent damage, including loose teeth and tooth loss.
Here are great reasons why dental care is really important.
1 A pet with healthy teeth equals a pet with better breath.
2 Dental disease can actually lead to problems with your pet’s other organs. When plaque, a mixture of bacteria and food debris, builds up on tooth surfaces and works its way under the gum line. Toxins released by the bacteria cause an inflammatory reaction that can lead to destruction of tissue and bone that anchor the teeth in place. If the bacteria enter the blood stream, they can even affect the heart, liver and kidneys.
3 Caring for your pet’s teeth can prevent other health problems, saving you tons of money over the long term.
4 Did you know full-grown dogs have 42 teeth and full-grown cats have 30 teeth? Before their adult teeth grow in, though, their baby teeth have to fall out. An oral issue that can arise is retained deciduous teeth; the baby teeth that do not fall out. This condition occurs in growing puppies and kittens and can lead to malpositioning of the permanent teeth. At Buckley Veterinary Hospital, our team routinely checks for this condition when adolescent dogs and cats are under anesthesia to be spayed or neutered and we will extract retained baby teeth if necessary.
5 You need regular dental care and you brush your teeth every day — why wouldn’t your pets? Our team at Buckley Veterinary Hospital can provide the tools for at home care and can work with you to demonstrate and help you learn to brush your dog’s teeth and your cat’s teeth.
6 Did you know four out of five dogs over the age of 3 years have some sort of periodontal disease? Periodontal disease is the final stage in a process that begins with the development of plaque on your pet’s teeth. It can be caused by the buildup of plaque, so it’s important to go in for regular dental checkups and cleanings. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “more than 85 percent of dogs and cats that are at least 4 years old have a condition in which bacteria attack the soft gum tissue,” causing this disease.
7 Pets that don’t receive regular dental care can lose their teeth over time — this can be terribly painful and cause underlying health and behavioral problems.
8 Your dog and cat are very good at hiding pain — you might never know that your pet has a serious dental problem until it’s very advanced. This is yet another reason it’s important to take your pet in for annual dental checkups.
9 Teeth wear out! Your pets are tough on their teeth. Learn the symptoms to keep your pet from experiencing the pain of severely worn teeth.
10 Fractured teeth can lead to painful cavities. Dogs commonly fracture teeth by chewing on rocks, cage doors, chain link fences and hard toys. Tooth resorption, which can take place in cat’s mouths, generally goes undetected by owners and is a leading cause of tooth loss.
Prevention is the best medicine. Ultimately our goal as pet healthcare providers is to help you, as a pet owner, provide a longer, healthier and happier life for your best friend.
Preventing periodontal disease by keeping your pet’s teeth and gums healthy is not just a job for your pet’s health providers. It is your job, too! While nothing can take the place of annual visits to the veterinarian for checkups and cleaning, ongoing follow-up oral care at home is just as important in controlling plaque and tartar formation. Proper food, chew toys and dental treats are items that can be used to supplement routine medical care.
Thank you to our readers – we welcome you back next month. As always, send questions, comments, or suggestions for future columns to us at email@example.com. Stay safe and warm this winter!