Dental Health is Essential for Overall Health of Pets

Our American foxhound Bella has always been a finicky eater, but one morning I noticed something that was unusual even for her. She was picking up kernels of her dry food and  dropping them onto the floor beside her dish. I thought back to my days working with horses. When they started to drop food from their mouths it was often a sign that they were having problems with their teeth. I could tell that Bella wanted to eat the food but something was stopping her.

A visit to the veterinarian revealed that she was indeed having problems with her teeth. She had to have one tooth removed and also had her teeth cleaned while she was under anesthesia.

Regular dental exams can help prevent more serious health problems 

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, often indicated by bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and mouth and depression. To address the significance of oral health care for pets, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month in February.

“Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets and it’s also entirely preventable,” said AVMA President Mike Topper. “Twice-a-year checkups, including an oral health checkup, are important to ensure your pet is not in pain and is not suffering from serious oral health problems.”

Besides causing receding gums and tooth loss, bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, potentially infecting the heart, liver and kidneys, which can be potentially life threatening.

Although daily tooth brushing  is advised for dogs and cats, only 2 percent of dog owners follow through according to the AVDS. Bad breath and yellowing teeth are two of the earliest signs of dental health problems in pets and if left untreated these symptoms can develop into periodontal disease or gingivitis.

Just as the public has come to realize that their own oral health is linked to their overall health, veterinarians want people to understand that dental health care is essential to maintaining the overall health and wellbeing of the family pet.

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Pay attention to symptoms of dental problems in dogs and cats

If you notice any of the following signs, it’s time to take your pet to the veterinarian for a dental checkup:

  • Red swollen gums
  • Bad breath (similar to the smell of a rotten egg)
  • Teeth that are broken, loose, discolored or covered in tartar
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling or dropping food from the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Shying away from you when you touch the mouth area
  • Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Weight loss

Prevention of dental health problems is as simple as following a dental care regimen at home and following up with regular checkups with your veterinarian, say experts at the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association (NJVMA). Getting your dog or cat used to having his or her teeth cleaned at home should ideally be started when they are young but pets of all ages can learn to adapt to this routine.

Be sure to use toothbrushes and toothpaste made especially for pets and be gentle when brushing, taking care to get the insides and outsides of all teeth. In order to train your dog or cat to tolerate regular tooth brushing, start by massaging the animal’s gums with an appropriate pet toothpaste. Poultry-flavored toothpaste is very popular and most animals love paste. This process should be repeated approximately two to three times a week. Special foods, along with dental chews, rawhide, dental bones and other healthy products that pets consider treats can help keep teeth white and free of disease.

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

70 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Angel W
Past Member 9 months ago

thanks
hard 2 do

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R9 months ago

thank you

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

Yfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

Tfs

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Paulo R
Paulo R9 months ago

ty

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Elaine W
Elaine W9 months ago

I admit I have not tried floss for Miss Kitty ;)

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Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks

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Jerome S
Jerome S10 months ago

thanks

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