http://www.everydayhealth.com/ Posted in: Pet Health
By Julio López, DVM, DACVIM, Special to Everyday Health
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dental disease affects 68 percent of cats and 78 percent of dogs over the age of three, making it the most common disease in pets.
If dental problems are not treated, your pet could end up with mouth pain, tooth loss, jaw fractures, and even problems with organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver from dental infections that spread through the body.
Dental disease begins with formation of a film on the tooth surface, which is is produced by bacteria called plaque. As the bacteria attached to the plaque die, they form tartar when calcium in saliva solidifies them. Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) ensues, causing redness, swelling, and bleeding. Without treatment, infection can form around the tooth root, destroying tissue and the bony socket that hold it in place, causing pain and tooth loss.
Bad breath is a common sign of dental disease in dogs and cats. Unfortunately, few pet owners take any action to eliminate its underlying cause. Other signs of dental disease:
Blood-tinged water in your pet’s bowl
A tendency for your pet to drop food while eating
A preference for canned food instead of kibble
Rubbing or pawing at the mouth or face
Brownish discoloration of the teeth
Taking preventive measures, especially while your pets are young, will help delay the onset and severity of dental disease.
Follow these tips to ensure your pet’s mouth stays healthy for years to come:
1. Take Your Pet for a Dental Cleaning
A proper dental cleaning is a must for getting rid of bacterial plaque and tartar, as well as preventing gingivitis, gum recession, infection, and tooth loss. Just as you have your teeth scaled and polished by a dental hygienist, your pet needs the same thing. Unlike most people, your pet will be anesthetized for the procedure. Ask your veterinarian about it; they may refer to a board-certified veterinary dentist. Cleanings should occur as often as recommended by your veterinarian based on dental examination.
As for the lest costly dental cleaning (done without anesthesia), it is more like a cosmetic procedure. Sure, your pet’s teeth will look white, but it’s what you can’t see below the gum line that could be causing the damage. It’s the equivalent of whitening your teeth without cleaning them. Those shiny, white teeth will be of no use when they fall out!
If you think your pet is too old for anesthesia, remember that age is not a disease. If your pet is generally healthy, there is no reason not to perform a procedure that could make a huge difference in their health and quality of life. Many owners of older pets report that their animals act years younger after a dental cleaning. The “slowing down” that had been attributed to old age and arthritis was actually due to dental pain and infection.
2. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
Don’t let that dental cleaning go to waste. The most effective way to prevent plaque from building up again is by brushing your pet’s teeth. Unfortunately, very few pet owners do this. Daily brushing is best, especially if your pet has a history of periodontal disease. Otherwise, brushing three times per week is fine. Make brushing easier by starting when your pets are puppies and kittens. Go slow and get them used to flavored pet toothpaste by using your finger at first, eventually progressing to a toothbrush. Always make brushing a rewarding experience by providing treats. Remember that brushing in the presence of dental disease may be painful, making it a bad experience for both and your pet. If this is the case, don’t start brushing until after your pet has had a professional cleaning.
3. Get Some Chewy Treats
Chewing on certain treats and dental diets will help keep those hard-to-reach back teeth clean. Although there are numerous products that claim to decrease the incidence of dental disease, they may not all be effective. Products evaluated and approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) are your best bet.
Contrary to popular belief, dry pet food does not provide much benefit compared to canned food in preventing dental disease unless it is specially formulated tartar-control kibble. Dental diets may include over-sized kibble, have special fiber ingredients, or include additives to help reduce plaque and prevent tartar. Several edible tartar-control treats are also available. Rawhides and other chews may also be effective.
It is important to remember to use these treats with caution (and supervision), as they may be choking hazards or cause intestinal blockages if animals swallow large pieces. They may also cause tooth fractures if too they are too hard to chew. As a general rule, if you cannot indent a chew with your fingernail, it is too hard for your pet to chew safely.
4. Try Water Additives
While it seems that this would be the easiest way to care for your pet’s teeth, don’t use water additives on their own. These products should be used in combination with the other preventive measures. So far, only one water additive — Essential healthymouth anti-plaque water additive (for both cats and dogs) — has the VOHC seal of approval.
Dental hygiene is just as important in pets as it is in people. With proper at-home dental care and regular professional cleanings, your pet’s mouth can remain infection and pain free.
Julio López, DVM, DACVIM, is a board-certified specialist in small animal internal medicine and a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Dr. López practices in Los Angeles and has experience in all aspects of internal medicine with a special interest in diseases of the kidney and bladder, endocrine diseases such as diabetes, Addison’s, Cushing’s, and hyperthyroidism. He launched www.MyExpertVet.com to provide trustworthy sources of information. Follow him on Twitter @ExpertVet
Last Updated: 2/26/2015
COMMENTS FROM LOVINMYPUP.COM
We at Lovinmypup.com enjoy interacting with dogs and cats whenever we meet them. It is interesting to note that a significant number of the pets we meet, have issues with bad breath. There are ways to ensure that your pet’s breath remains normal fr the breed. this article provides basic suggestions t keep your pet’s breath “kissable”. In addition to Bella’s daily vitamins and probiotic , Bella also gets a dental treat in the morning and before bed. At 6 yrs old her teeth ar still white and her breath is normal. Regular brushing at home will help prevent the very expensive alternative of Dental cleaning in your Vet’s office. Good luck in maintaining your pet’s good dental hygiene
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