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Pet dental issues can impact overall health

Q: When my cat Lily yawned the other day, I was surprised to see that her teeth are yellow-brown and a few are missing. Is this normal, or should I do something about it?

A: It sounds like Lily has periodontal disease, which is a problem because it’s painful and her gums are likely infected with bacteria that can spread throughout her body, settling in the kidneys, liver and heart. Periodontal disease is common, affecting 70 percent of cats by age three.

While February was National Pet Dental Health Month, it’s a good time to take Lily to the veterinarian. Your vet will examine her, update any overdue vaccinations, test her blood to be sure her organs are functioning well, and schedule her dental care.

On dental day, your veterinarian will anesthetize Lily, examine her mouth thoroughly and take radiographs (x-rays) of her mouth. Radiographs are important because 60 percent of dental disease lies hidden below the gum line.

Your veterinarian will treat or extract any teeth with fractures, root abscesses, or other problems. Then your vet will clean the yellow-brown tartar off Lily’s teeth and polish them, so plaque doesn’t stick as easily in the future.

You can help maintain Lily’s dental health by brushing her teeth daily or every other day with pet toothpaste. If Lily resists brushing, consult the Veterinary Oral Health Council for a list of diets, treats and other products proven to reduce plaque and tartar.

Editor’s Note: Keeping your pet’s teeth healthy is a must year-round! Here are five tips for keeping those canine and feline teeth clean and healthy.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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