As February marks National Pet Dental Health Month, it's essential that we take a moment to remember how important good oral health is to our furry friend's overall well-being. Whether you have cats or dogs, their oral health is imperative to their overall health and quality (as well as length) of life.
Good dental hygiene is a vital part of your pet's long-term health. Poor dental hygiene can result in plaque and tartar buildup that leads to periodontal disease. If left unchecked, it can result in anesthesia and operations that are required to remove the animal's teeth. Moreover, in the worst cases, poor dental hygiene can even cause your pet to end up with heart, lung, and kidney diseases from the bacteria that build up in the mouth and eventually manage to make it to the bloodstream.
How Can I Determine If My Pet Has Periodontal Disease?
Determining your pet has a periodontal disease is not always a simple thing to do, but the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends looking for the following symptoms to clue you in as to when your furry pal might need some additional dental attention:
- breath with a very repugnant odor (sign of bacteria, plaque, and tartar buildup in the mouth)
- your pet has a buildup of plaque or tartar on their teeth
- red swollen gums that may indicate gingivitis
- gums that are bleeding when the dog eats/chews
- infections that have formed around the root of the tooth
- excessive drooling
- loose teeth/loss of teeth (from decay)
If you notice any of these symptoms in your pet, it is advisable to make an appointment with a qualified veterinarian to have your pet checked out and to see if further treatment including professional cleanings is needed.
What Can I Do to Help My Pet Maintain Good Oral Health?
As an owner, you naturally want to do what you can to help your pet avoid the previously mentioned scenarios. The following are a few great ways to ensure that your pet has the best oral health possible:
Clean Your Pet's Teeth at Home:
When your pet is at home, a simple way to clean their teeth is to put a piece of gauze and to brush over your dog's teeth with your finger. The fronts and tops are the most important. Some dogs may not let you get to the back of their teeth, but don't worry too much about that as little if any plaque ever grows back there anyway. Use small circular motions to clean all teeth. Doing so on a daily basis can help avoid tartar and plaque buildup which could otherwise lead to periodontal disease.
Provide Teeth-Friendly Treats & Chew Toys:
Providing your pet with treats that are designed to help clean their teeth can ensure that they are not getting tooth decay or rot from having too many biscuits, bones, or other "treats" in their diet. Also be sure to give your pet chew toys that are healthy for their teeth and do not have any toxic materials or ingredients in them. These practices ensure that you are not damaging your pet's teeth more than you are helping keep them healthy.
Have Your Vet Check Your Pet's Teeth:
When you take your dog in for vaccinations or annual appointments, have your vet check over your dog's teeth to ensure that there are no early signs of periodontal disease, gingivitis, or other plaque/tartar buildup that may turn into a bigger problem later. Nipping the problem in the bud can save your pet a lot of discomforts and you a lot of cash.
Get Your Pet Proper Treatment:
If your vet detects a developing issue with your pet's oral health, you may need to get your pet further treatment such as X-rays to see if the periodontal disease has gotten into the bone structure of your pet's jaw or blood work to see if the toxins or bacteria have gone to their bloodstream. While these treatments may be pricey, they are a lot cheaper than leaving the problem till your pet needs surgery, which is almost sure to be even more expensive than what you would have had to pay for otherwise.