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Don’t Brush Aside Your Pet’s Oral Health

February is Pet Dental Health Month! Our pets are prone to many of the dental issues we humans can suffer from, so we wanted to take a little bit of time to talk about the importance of keeping those pearly whites fresh and clean – not only for the health of your pet’s mouth, but it’s entire body. Most pets have some level of periodontal disease by the time they’re 3 years old, but the good news is that it’s entirely preventable!

So what is periodontal disease? Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth turns into plaque, which sticks to the surface of the teeth; saliva then hardens the plaque into “dental calculus” or tartar, which becomes very firmly attached to the tooth. Plaque and tartar buildup occurs both above and below the gumline, and begins a cycle of damage to the teeth, gums, supporting tissues, and jawbone. When periodontal disease is severe enough, it can cause an immune response in a pet’s body, leading to further damage of the teeth and even causing harm to a pet’s kidneys, liver, and heart muscle!

What are the signs of periodontal disease? While the most obvious signs will be stinky breath and visible tartar accumulation on the teeth, there are other things that can point to a pet being in need of some dental care. These include, but are not limited to: reduced appetite, weight loss (usually a sign that the disease is affecting major organs in the body), drooling, dropping food while eating, bleeding from the mouth, and pawing at the mouth.

My pet has periodontal disease, so how can I treat it? Periodontal disease is treated by bringing your pet in for a professional dental cleaning done by a veterinarian. During this procedure, the pet is placed under anesthesia and the doctor does a thorough oral exam to look for any cysts or tumors in the mouth, broken or infected teeth, or abscesses. Dental radiographs will be taken of any suspicious teeth, the teeth are scaled and polished, and the doctor performs any necessary tooth extractions. The pet is ready to go home the same day.

How can I prevent periodontal disease? Just like with humans, the best way to keep teeth healthy is by daily brushing. While the task might seem daunting, it is entirely doable with a patience and training (yes, even with our feline friends!). Of course, human toothpaste should never be used on dogs or cats – instead, purchase a toothpaste that is specifically made for animals. We carry toothpaste here at My Vet in a variety of flavors so please feel free to stop in for a sample! In addition to brushing, you can use food and water additives and dental chews to round out your pet’s complete oral health routine.

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