National Pet Dental Health Month
Unfortunately, we only treat humans, but as an office full of animal lovers, we want to take the time to acknowledge National Pet Dental Health Month! Here is a bit of an overview about National Pet Dental Health Month as well as some information about how you can protect the dental health of your fur babies.
What is National Pet Dental Health Month?
Every year in February, the AVMA sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month. As you might imagine, this campaign is intended to raise awareness about the importance of pet dental health. Home dental care can go a long way toward helping protect your pet against dental disease and related problems. Have you ever found yourself turning away from your pet because of bad breath? Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. BUT, the reality of the matter is that this odor might signify a serious health risk. In fact, a dental health concern can indicate an underlying general health concern.
Below, you’ll find information on how you can improve not only the dental health care of your pet, but also your pet’s overall health.
When Should My Pet Receive Dental Health Care?
Your pet’s teeth should be checked at least once per year by your veterinarian for early signs of problems and to keep your pet’s mouth healthy. If you observe any of the following problems, schedule an appointment to get your pet’s teeth checked sooner:
- 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
- A change in behavior as this can be triggered by a dental health problem
What Kind of Dental Health Problems Can Pets Experience?
Yes, cavities are less common in pets than in people, but they can cause many of the same dental problems that humans have to navigate. These may include:
- 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
- Palate defects (such as cleft palate)
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in dogs and cats. It’s important to know that by the time your pet is 3 years old, he or she will very likely have some early evidence of periodontal disease. This will worsen as your pet grows older if effective preventive measures aren’t taken. Early detection and treatment are critical because advanced periodontal disease can cause severe problems and pain for your pet. Periodontal disease doesn’t just affect your pet’s mouth; it can also impact your pet’s kidney, liver and heart muscle.
It starts with plaque that hardens into tartar. Tartar above the gum line can often easily be seen and removed, but plaque and tartar below the gum line is damaging and sets the stage for infection and damage to the jawbone and the tissues that connect the tooth to the jaw bone. Periodontal disease is graded on a scale of 0 (normal) to 4 (severe).
The treatment of periodontal disease involves a thorough dental cleaning and x-rays may be needed to determine the severity of the disease. Your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary dentist will make recommendations based on your pet’s overall health and the health of your pet’s teeth, then provide you with options to consider.
What Can You Do for Your Pet’s Dental Health at Home?
If you regularly brush your pet’s teeth, it is the single most effective action you can perform to keep their teeth healthy between dental cleanings. Daily brushing is best, but it’s not always possible; so brushing several times a week may be just as effective. Most dogs accept brushing, but cats can be a bit more resistant – patience and training are important. While there are many oral health pet products available, we recommend talking with your veterinarian about any dental products, treats, or dental-specific diets you’re considering for your pet.
Although we shout out February to honor our canine companions and other animal friends, dental health should be a daily ritual for pet owners all year long. Just like humans!