National Pet Dental Health Month
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so take this opportunity to evaluate the state of your pet's teeth and gums and start an oral care routine.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and oral care is one of the aspects of pet health that is often neglected. Many pet owners assume that pets don’t need the same level of dental care that humans do, but that is not always the case. As any vet will tell you, dental care is part of a pet’s health and wellness routine to ensure that they stay as happy and healthy as possible. So, use Pet Dental Health Month as a catalyst to take better care of your pet’s teeth.
Common Causes of Pet Dental Disease
Pets get bacteria in their mouths just like other living creatures, and when they accumulate they can cause gum disease in cats and dogs. If a bacterial infection takes place in the mouth, it can cause swelling and inflammation of the gums and eventually lead to tooth loss.
Animals suffer from the gum diseases gingivitis and periodontal disease:
Gingivitis is caused by the plaque buildup along the gum line and can be diagnosed by a visual exam. If your pet has gingivitis, they will have swollen, red gums that bleed and may be sensitive. Your pet may also have loose teeth or even display signs of mouth pain. Gingivitis is typically not as severe as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease in dogs is serious and should be addressed immediately. If your dog is diagnosed with periodontal disease, damage is more severe and may affect their gums and their teeth. Typically, periodontal disease occurs after years of oral health issues, so make sure to ask your vet about your pet’s teeth at your next wellness visit to catch this condition before it becomes a permanent issue.
Symptoms of periodontal disease include bleeding gums, discoloration of teeth, and constant bad breath. The pain related to the disease may cause your pet to become irritable or lose their appetite all together.
While small dogs are more likely to suffer from periodontal disease, dogs who eat hard kibble are less likely to contract it because the hard crunching of their food will help keep their teeth clean of tartar. You can incorporate dental chews and toys that are designed to keep teeth clean as another means of fending off gum disease in your pets.
Get a Professional Dental Cleaning at Your Vet
Contact your vet and schedule an appointment for a professional dental exam and cleaning for your pet. Because your pet will be under anesthesia when getting their teeth cleaned, your vet will probably want to have a pre-cleaning appointment to check your pet’s teeth and make sure the procedure can be performed safely.
While your dog is having their teeth cleaned, your vet will give them a thorough dental exam, as well as polish their teeth and remove any plaque. They may find during their exam that a tooth needs to be extracted and, depending on the circumstances, this may or may not be addressed with you first. If you have concerns about the vet pulling any teeth, be sure to speak with them before the cleaning appointment, so you are both on the same page about your pet’s health.
Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
Does your pet have particularly bad breath? Like humans, that could be a sign of poor oral care or something worse like dental disease. The easiest way to add oral care to your pet’s routine is to start brushing their teeth regularly. It is recommended that you brush your pet’s teeth 2-3 times per week.
If this is not something you regularly do now, you’ll want to prepare yourself and your pet for regular teeth brushing so they have time to acclimate to the new process. Before you get started, invest in a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for pets. Animals have different needs than humans, so you’ll need to invest in specialty tools designed for their mouths. Fortunately, toothbrushes and toothpaste for pets are not terribly expensive, and they are easy to find online or in the pet supply section of your local store.
Before you start applying the toothpaste, get your pet comfortable with the process of sticking things in their mouth while they sit still. This may take some time, but with repeated attempts, praise, and treats for a job well done, your pet will begin to realize this is not something to fear. Once they are comfortable with the process, introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste. Stick to a schedule for teeth cleaning. Pets love routine, and knowing when something is coming will help reduce their stress.
Oral care is as important for pets as it is for people, so start taking measures to protect your pet’s teeth today. Whether you take your pet for a professional dental cleaning or start brushing their teeth regularly, they will thank you as they age and continue to have strong, healthy teeth. Fill in the gaps between cleanings with crunchy kibble and dental treats & chews to keep those chompers healthy for National Pet Dental Health Month and beyond.
You may also want to consider pet insurance with dental coverage. For example, optional Defender & DefenderPlus add-ons through AKC Pet Insurance (underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company) include wellness lab work and teeth cleaning.
CJ has always wanted to be a writer. She even threatened to drop out after her first day of kindergarten when they weren’t immediately going to teach her to read and write. Fortunately, she stayed in school, earned her degree in Creative Writing from Christopher Newport University, and now gets to live her best life with her husband, 3 Japanese Chins, and cat writing for AKC Pet Insurance.READ MORE ARTICLES