February is Pet Dental Health Month!
Did you know that February is Pet Dental Health Month? Keep reading for some great tips from Dr. Alison Berkin with Forever Freckled!
Just like in humans, poor dental health can result in serious health issues such as heart disease, increased risk of cancer, increased risk of diabetes, and pancreatic disease, amongst others. So why is dental disease an epidemic? What can we do as pet owners to ensure our pets live longer and happier lives by preventing periodontal disease? The first step is to have your pet’s teeth evaluated by your veterinarian. Many of my pet parents do not realize their pets have dental disease. Commonly my clients bring their pets to see me with complaints that their breath smells horrible or eating habits have changed. These are the most common signs of periodontal disease. Recognizing the signs of periodontal disease is the first step in improving your pets oral care and overall health.
The following are some clinical signs that may suggest your pet has periodontal disease:
- Halitosis (bad breath). Persistent bad breath is generally the first sign my pet parents notice.
- Gums that bleed easily. Is there blood on your pet’s bones or toys? This is a sign of possible gingivitis and should be evaluated by your veterinarian.
- Changes in eating behaviors. If your pet is eating slower or chews only on one side of their mouth, this can be a sign of pain and possible periodontal disease.
- Loss of appetite. Always has your pet evaluated by your veterinarian when they are not eating.
- Pawing at the mouth. This can be a sign of oral pain.
- Sensitivity around the mouth. If your pet no longer allows you to rub their chin or mouth area, this may be a sign of discomfort due to dental disease.
Inside the Mouth
- Loose or missing teeth.
- Yellow or brown hardened material on the tooth. This is usually tartar and needs to be cleaned professionally with a scaler and ultrasonic cleaner by your veterinarian.
- Discoloration of a tooth. This may be a sign of a tooth root abscess or decaying tooth.
- Purulent exudate (pus) around the tooth. This may be a sign of an infection.
- Gums that are inflamed (red), hyperplastic, or receding. This may be a sign of gingivitis.
- Swelling under the eye. This may suggest a possible tooth root abscess and needs to be addressed immediately with your veterinarian.
- Constant nasal discharge. This may be a sign of periodontal disease.
- No signs at all. Many pets will not show any clinical signs that they are suffering with periodontal disease. It is imperative to visit your veterinarian for a thorough examination and dental cleaning annually or biannually.
Poor oral health can also be painful and uncomfortable for our pets, and sometimes our pets have difficulty expressing that they are in pain, especially if the pain is minor or dull oral pain. So now that we recognized our pets have periodontal disease, what can we do to help improve their dental health? There are many things we can do at home to not only improve the overall health and well-being of our pets’ oral hygiene, but also improve their quality of life. The following are some great ways to improve the oral hygiene of our pets, and their overall well-being.
Proper Dental Care and Disease Prevention
At Home Dental Care:
- This is the single most important measure you can take to prevent periodontal disease and promote dental health in your pet. We need to start brushing our pets’ teeth. Whenever I see new puppies and kittens, I motivate my clients to start teaching them how to tolerate and even enjoy getting their teeth cleaned. If you have an adult pet, although more challenging, I encourage you to try and start cleaning their teeth using lots of positive reinforcement. The key is to use a soft bristle toothbrush and pet formulated toothpaste It is important to make sure the toothpaste is specific and safe for pets, as pets will swallow the toothpaste. Follow-up with a proper rinse that is pet safe to finish the cleaning. We recommend brushing every day, but if you can do it twice weekly, you are way ahead of the game.
Dental Rinses and Wipes:
- Use dental rinses or wipes daily.
Prescription Dental Diet:
- Dental diets are formulated for reducing the amount of plaque and tartar that accumulate on the teeth and in some cases may even prevent serious oral diseases from occurring. The larger kibble is composed of fibers that actually scrub the teeth’s’ surface to reduce plaque. Ask your veterinarian if a prescription dental diet is appropriate for your pet
- One Dental chew or treat a day keeps the veterinarian away!
- Avoid treats that are high in sugar as sugar may worsen or cause more dental health problems.
Veterinarian Dental Check-Ups:
- Visit your veterinarian for a thorough dental cleaning and examination annually or biannually. I need to stress that even if you are brushing your pets’ teeth regularly, it is still important to get them in at least once a year for a proper teeth cleaning under anesthesia with an ultrasonic scaler and polisher. Just like us, pets need a thorough cleaning that removes the plaque and tartar under their gum lines that you cannot reach with a toothbrush. The oral examination is imperative to check for disease and ensure dental and overall health.
I hope this helps inspire all my pet parents to take the best care of their pets’ teeth. I know how much my clients and I adore and love their pets. Keeping them healthy and living a long life is top priority. Dental health should be part their routine health and care because unfortunately, poor dental health is the most overlooked cause of serious disease that I see.