During National Pet Dental Health Month, pet owners are reminded of the dangers of poor pet dental care. Because dogs and cats can't brush their own teeth, it's up to their owners to ensure their beloved pets get the oral care they need.
Trouble begins when food particles and bacteria build up in the mouth form plaque and tartar, which leads to gingivitis and severe periodontal disease. Periodontal disease leads to tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums, and, in severe cases, tooth loss. Even more complications arise when the bacteria that cause periodontal disease travel into a pet's bloodstream, possibly resulting in damage to the heart, liver, kidneys and lungs.
The American Veterinary Dental Society estimates that 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three.
There are a number of symptoms to look for to determine if your animal is suffering with dental disease:
•Bad breath-it's not unusual for a dog to have breath that's unpleasant, but if it becomes putrid, this is a strong sign of dental disease.
•Tartar build up-just like in people, a dog or cat's teeth should be white and free of tartar.
•Swollen, receding, or bleeding gums.
•Fractured teeth-bad oral hygiene can lead to cavities, which can be very painful.
•Change in eating habits-sometimes an animal's dental disease can become so uncomfortable that petswill avoid certain foods.
Prevention is the best cure for dental disease in animals, and that includes annual visits to your veterinarian to have your pet's teeth examined. Dogs and cats should also have their teeth brushed on a regular basis, and special foods, along with dental chews, rawhide, dental bones and other healthy products that pets consider "treats," can help keep teeth white and free of disease.
In order to train your dog or cat to tolerate regular tooth brushing, start by massaging the animal'sgums with an appropriate pet tooth paste. Poultry-flavored toothpaste is very popular, and most animalslove the taste. Toothpaste made for humans can make a pet sick. Once the animal starts acceptingor even looking forward to this new ritual, introduce a toothbrush and clean the exterior of the animal's teeth.
If your pet already has signs of periodontal disease, a professional cleaning is in order. Talk to your veterinarian for more information on a dental health treatment and program for your pet.