Oral care is a growing trend among pet guardians and for good reason. A healthy mouth is vital to a healthy body. ďDental care is one of the simplest things you can do to help maintain a dog or catís long-term health,Ē says Dr. David Smith, a veterinarian with Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan. In fact, oral disease is the most commonly diagnosed illness for adult cats and dogs, affecting nearly 80 percent of those over the age of 3, according to†PetDental.com. A good dental regime can help you beat these odds and keep your petís mouth clean and healthy.
Symptoms of periodontal disease
Bad breath is often the first sign of oral disease but definitely not the last. Pets may also experience bleeding, swollen gums, and tooth decay. Worse yet, left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to secondary infection within the body, according to Dr. Louise Murray, of the ASPCA in New York City. ďBacteria doesnít just stay in the mouth,Ē she says. Instead it can compromise the immune system and travel to the heart, lungs, and kidneys. ďOral health is important for overall health.Ē
Many guardians tend to wait until a problem arises before having their petís teeth examined and waiting too long can just makes things worse. ďIf itís an emergency situation, the dentistry becomes much more involved,Ē Murray says. Pet guardians can avoid extensive problems by having the teeth cleaned regularly. Smith recommends annual examinations for optimum health.
In addition, by the time the physical signs of oral disease are visible, your pet has likely withstood a great deal of pain. We all know how much a toothache hurts. Dogs and especially cats are masters at hiding their distress. Alleviate the pain and youíll see a change in personality; a once lethargic pet may become energetic and playful once again.
Next: 3 steps to good oral care
Three steps to good oral care
Dental care need not be time consuming or difficult. The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) recommends three steps to prevent oral disease.
First, have your dog or catís teeth examined and (if needed) cleaned by a professional. Most veterinarians will clean your petís teeth. Alternatively, try utilizing a board-certified veterinary dentist; a listing of dentists can be found on www.AVDC.org. Many pet insurance providers help cover the cost so check your policy for specific information. If possible, start regular exams when your pet is young and healthy as older animals may find the experience more stressful.
Next, feed your pet a healthy diet and clean his teeth regularly. Brushing can be done with a pet toothbrush, a childís soft bristled brush or by using gauze wrapped around your finger. Most pets need time to get used to the brushing, so be patient and exercise caution. Spend a few days introducing the toothbrush by slowly sliding it into his mouth. Always praise or reward your furry friend for his cooperation. Work your way up to gently brushing the teeth, using circular strokes along the gum line. Start at the back of the mouth and work your way forward.
If your dog or cat resists, try a pet-formulated toothpaste. While it isnít necessary (the abrasive scrubbing is what cleans the teeth), the taste will make brushing more appealing. Stay away from human toothpaste; the foam is messy and can be toxic if ingested. Daily brushing is a good goal, but if you forget a day or two, donít panic. Smith recommends brushing a minimum of three times a week for good oral hygiene.
Last but not least, take your dog or cat for annual dental checkups. Oral disease may be common, but itís also easily preventable. Monitoring your petís oral health will go a long way in keeping him comfortable, happy, and healthy. Not to mention, those kisses from Fido will be a lot more appealing if his breath is fresh and clean.
By Tracy Line for TAILS