Bad breath might put a crimp in your social life, but for your pet, it might be a sign of dental disease. Maintaining our pets’ oral health is an important part of their overall care. Tooth and gum disease in pets is often overlooked and, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss, infection, and even organ damage.
To promote dental hygiene and oral health care for pets across the nation, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has designated February as National Pet Dental Health Month.
Check out these 5 tips to help you keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy.
1. Learn the signs of periodontal disease in pets.
By age 3, nearly 80% of pets have dome sort of periodontal disease, which can range from simple decay to more serious conditions like gum infections, loose teeth or oral infections. Most dental disease occurs below the gum line, and unless you know what to look for, it can be hard to detect. Some signs of periodontal disease in pets include: bad breath, red gums, loose or broken teeth, tenderness around the mouth, persistent drooling, los of appetite, and weight loss.
2. Get your pet regular dental check-ups at your vet.
One of the best ways to address periodontal disease is vigilance. A regular (annual or semi-annual) dental check-up should be a part of your pet’s regular wellness regimen. Your vet has the skills and tools to detect dental disease in your pet before it becomes a serious issue. A bit of attention to your pet’s teeth and gums now can avoid facing more serious problems in the future.
3. Brush your pet’s teeth at home daily.
As with people, dogs and cats can benefit greatly from daily home dental care. A quick brushing can remove food particles and the bacteria that can lead to decay and disease. Since bacterial colonies form quickly in the mouth, daily brushing is far more effective than weekly or alternate-day brushing. Of course, some pets are more agreeable than others when it comes to having their teeth brushed. The AVMA offers a helpful video on training a reluctant pet to accept daily dental care. Be sure to use a soft-bristle brush and toothpaste that’s intended for pets.
4. Introduce a tooth-healthy diet.
Some pet foods can help keep your pet’s teeth and gums cleaner and healthier. You vet might recommend a brand of kibble that promotes oral health, or if you’re shopping around, check for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal on the product before you buy. Your vet may also recommend foods or chew toys to avoid—such as pig ears, bones, and tennis balls—as these can cause problems ranging from tooth decay and chipped teeth to eroded dental surfaces. Your vet can tell you which toys and treats are safe and healthy for your pet’s teeth.
5. Invest in pet health insurance.
Dental disease in pets can get expensive. Sedation is required for most such procedures, and overnight stays, antibiotics, and follow-up appointments are not uncommon. These costs can quickly mount into a budget breaker. Pet health insurance can help reduce these costs and make these procedures more affordable. Don’t let the cost of a procedure deter you from doing what’s best for your pet’s health.
We hope these tips will help tour pet live a longer, healthier, and happier life!
Editor’s Note: Take this quiz from the AVMA to find out how much you know about pet dental health.
Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.
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