National Pet Dental Health Month by Dr. Kerr

February is National Pet Dental Health month. During February the focus revolves around the teeth of our pets. Dogs and cats can and often do suffer from the same maladies we do including dental disease. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 85% of pets over 5 years of age have periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is a group of painful conditions that affects the bone and tissues that hold teeth in place. Periodontal disease is a progressive, preventable disorder that starts as the daily accumulation of plaque on teeth. This plaque holds bacteria which irritate the gums and cause pain. Over time this plaque creates a hard brown deposit called tartar. Tartar holds even more plaque. As all this progresses, the bacteria in the mouth and on the teeth eat away at the gum-tooth attachments causing lose, infected, sore teeth. Bad breath or halitosis in pets is an alert there is serious infection in the mouth.

All these tooth problems are preventable by removing the daily accumulation of plaque. Removal of plaque is a physical process, it needs to be rubbed or scraped away every day. One way to do this is daily brushing of our pets’ teeth. Brushing is done with an ultra soft tooth brush (any harder is too hard) with or without pet toothpaste. The other way is to feed a diet designed to physically remove the plaque when the kibbles are chewed. Remember, plaque is the important material to remove because it holds the bacteria, removal of tartar (the brown stuff) is only half the job and doesn’t prevent periodontal disease.

If your pet has tartar accumulation with or without the bad breath, the tartar needs to be removed and your pet’s teeth need to be thoroughly examined by your veterinarian. If your pet has any redness of the gums, then this becomes a little more urgent as red gums are painful gums. Visiting your veterinarian to have your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned gives your pet a clean slate which you can maintain at home.

Dental disease, the build-up of plaque and tartar which causes gingivitis and periodontal problems, can affect your pet’s entire body. When pets with periodontal disease eat (and they will continue to do so even though it is painful) bacteria enters the blood. This bacteria can collect in the kidneys, the heart, the liver and cause problems in these organs. This can shorten your pet’s through failure of these organs.

February is National Pet Dental Health month. This month we focus on pets’ teeth. A healthy lifestyle for our pets means we should focus on their teeth daily so we can share the joy of their companionship for years to come.