Happy Pet Dental Health Month!!!
Did you know that dental disease is the number one health problem in dogs and cats? In fact, 80% percent of dogs and 70% of cats over the age of 3 have some form of dental disease. Think your pet is immune? Maybe not. If you’re like most pet owners, you probably don’t spend a lot of time looking inside your pet’s mouth. But maybe you’ve started to notice a smell when your dog gives you kisses or your cat doesn’t seem to be as thrilled about his kibble as he used to be. Don’t fret- here are 5 things that you can do to help prevent and treat dental disease in your dog or cat.
- Have a veterinarian examine your pet at least once per year (but once every six months is better)
Not only does this help identify any progressive dental disease, but it also allows your vet to do a whole-body exam and check for any other issues that could be a threat to your pet’s wellbeing. Heart murmurs, lumps and bumps, orthopedic problems, and dental disease are often overlooked by even the most attentive pet owner. Having a skilled vet identify problems early on is the hallmark of preventative care- and will minimize life threatening (and expensive!) health issues down the road.
- Watch for these symptoms
Although most pets with dental disease don’t show any symptoms, many may be painful, irritable, or less interested in food. They may drop or avoid hard kibble, paw at the mouth, have an unusual odor or discharge, or have swelling of the muzzle or eyes. If you are concerned- please see your vet immediately! Seeking veterinary care when you first notice a problem will ensure prompt treatment- which means your pet will be feeling better in no time!
- Brush your pet’s teeth
Vets know- this one can be a pain in the behind. And, even if we won’t admit it, not all of us do this as often as we should for our own pets. However, adding this one thing to your daily routine could vastly improve your pet’s health and could save you hundreds of dollars in veterinary fees related to dental disease and extractions. How often should you brush your pet’s teeth? Daily is best, but that can be difficult, so a few times (or even once a week) will make a huge difference! Not sure how to get started? Here’s a good video showing you how to train your dog to accept the tooth brush:
- Feed an appropriate diet
For dogs and cats, a hard kibble food is ideal. You can even add treats (such as Greenies or Dentastix) into the routine- this is a fun way to incorporate dental health into training and rewards. You can also purchase a special brand (such as Hill’s Prescription Diet T/D) that removes tartar from the teeth during chewing. Talk to your family veterinarian for a specific recommendation on what food would help your pet live its very Best Life!
- Schedule Regular Prophylactic Dental Cleanings-
The AAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) recommends that dental exams and cleaning under anesthesia be done annually, starting at 1 year of age for small dogs and cats, and at 2 years of age for large dogs. During this procedure, your veterinarian will get the best look possible inside every area of your pet’s mouth and do almost everything (if not more) for your pet as your human dentist would do for you Additionally, routine dentals will identify any minor issues that pop up before they become a big enough deal to make your pet sick. Don’t overlook this step and only allow dental cleanings to be done when there’s a visible problem- most periodontal disease occurs below the gum line, where you (and your veterinarian) can’t see it.
If you follow the above guidelines, you should be on your way to have a healthy (and smiling) pet. If you have questions or concerns about your pet and their oral health, I encourage you to go see your veterinarian during the month of February for Pet Dental Health Month.
Have you had an experience with a pet who suffered from dental disease? Comment below!
Additional Resources for Pet Owners:
- DVM 360