Dental Care for Pets

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed problem in dogs and cats, and while 80% of people brush their own teeth every day, most do not do the same for their pets. Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums; it can lead to infections of the mouth. Left unchecked, the bacteria causing these infections can spread through the bloodstream and cause life-threatening conditions. Infections from periodontal disease have been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other life threatening disorders as well as tooth loss. The AVMA estimates that by age two, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease.

Some common signs of dental disease in pets are; bad breath, reluctance to chew or crying out when chewing, increased salivation, red and/or puffy gums, bleeding gums, a buildup of tartar/calculus on the teeth, and missing or loose teeth.

Your veterinarian will typically examine your pet's mouth and teeth during a routine physical exam. This is one reason why a through annual exam is so important for every pet. If necessary, the veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning. This procedure requires general anesthesia. During the procedure the pet's teeth and gums will be thoroughly examined, scaled and polished. If a problem tooth is found, it may need to be extracted.

The best way to minimize professional cleanings at your veterinarian is to keep your pet’s teeth clean by home dental care. This can include brushing your pet's teeth (the general rule seems to be at least every 48 hours to be effective) or using special treats and or supplements to help keep teeth clean. There is an urban myth that feeding only dry food will keep your pet’s teeth clean and it is just that - a myth. Cats teeth may in fact benefit greatly from having canned (wet) food in their diet.


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