February is National Pet Dental Health Month

Although February is National Pet Dental Health month, dental health is important to pets year-round.  Dental disease affects EVERY dog and cat!  It actually shortens your pet’s life by causing other illnesses in the body.  This occurs when bacteria in your pet’s mouth enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart, kidneys and liver causing disease and heart murmurs.  After a proper dental cleaning, many owners report increased energy in their pet as well as a better appetite. 

            How do you know if your dog or cat is suffering from dental disease?  Common signs include bad breath, tartar and red gums.  Dental disease is painful, causing a decreased appetite, swallowing food whole or reluctance to be touched on the face.  Cats in particular may hide and want less attention.  Dogs may not want to play with toys in their mouths.  Not every animal shows every sign!  Animals are masters at hiding disease and pain.  Your veterinarian is the best judge of your pet’s teeth!

            Proper dental cleanings involve anesthesia and ultrasonic scaling.  Without anesthesia, pets become stressed when you probe their mouths.  It’s also painful to clean below the gum line where most disease occurs.  Hand-scaling your pet’s teeth at home may remove tartar but actually damages the surface of the teeth.  It creates scratches in the enamel which attract bacteria leading to more plaque.  Ultrasonic scaling gently removes the tartar and polishing fills in the scratches to deter bacteria.

            After a dental cleaning and to keep your pet’s teeth healthy at home, owners can use special dental products aimed at killing oral bacteria and reducing plaque.  These products include prescription dental diets, CET dental chews and toothpaste, and Aquadent (water additive).  None of these products will replace the need for a proper dental cleaning!  However, when used often and properly, they can lengthen the time between dental cleanings and lessen the severity of the disease that does occur. 

            Most veterinary clinics offer a special during Pet Dental Health month.  If you have any questions about dental cleanings or your pet’s dental health, please consult your veterinarian!  Your best friend will thank you for it!

by Brenda McClelland, DVM, The Pet Wellness Clinic, Fort Collins, CO

photo courtesy of wikimedia commons