February is Pet Dental Health Month

February 05, 2018
April Begosh

cat-brushing-teethDid you know that your pet not having their teeth brushed for the first three years of their life is like you not seeing a dentist until you were 20? According to the Amercian Veterinary Dental Society more than 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop periodontal disease by the time they are three years of age.

The healthy mouth of a pet should include “bubble gum” pink gums, white teeth and no bad breath. Cat’s teeth are designed for cutting food into chunks small enough to eat. A cat’s diet is primarily meat because they are true carnivores. Dog’s teeth are like humans because they grind their food prior to swallowing. Either way, your pet’s mouth is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

One of the first signs of an unhealthy mouth is bad breath. Upon further inspection you may find red and swollen gums with yellow teeth and tartar build up at the gum lines. This tartar build up, if left untreated, can lead to periodontal disease and ultimately, tooth loss. In some cases, the bacteria from the tartar can break off and enter the bloodstream causing infection in susceptible organs. Kidney, liver and heart disease have been linked to poor dental health.

There are many symptoms that can indicate poor dental health. These include bad or fowl breath, red, swollen gums, excessive salivation, bleeding gums, yellow-brown tartar deposits, loose or missing teeth, difficulty or pain when eating or loss of appetite.

You can reduce the chances of your pet developing periodontal disease by providing them with chew toys designed to scrape off excess plaque from the teeth while massaging the gums. Feeding your pet dry kibble can also assist in eliminating plaque and tartar build up. Of course, one of the best ways to manage your pet’s oral health is with regular brushing.

You should brush your pet’s teeth at least once a week, but the ideal frequency is 3-5 times per week. If you have never brushed your pet’s teeth, you should start off using your finger rather than a toothbrush. Initially dip your finger in peanut butter for dogs, tuna juice for cats so that they associate this as being a pleasant experience. Whether you use your finger or a toothbrush, brushing should consist of short, up and down motions in small, circular patterns. You should begin at the back on the inside of the teeth and work your way out and forward being sure to brush the upper and lower and inner and outer surfaces of the teeth.

Home brushing is important, but it will not remove existing tartar buildup or prevent the pet from ever needing its teeth cleaned professionally. Home brushing can, however, reduce how often the pet’s teeth will need to be cleaned professionally. Home brushing and annual visits to the veterinarian for ultrasonic cleaning is your best strategy for good, lifelong pet dental health. Proper care, maintenance and nutrition can help the pet have a healthier mouth and longer

April Begosh
Healthy Pets NH