Dog breath. Cat breath. We joke about our sometimes stinky pets, but the truth is, your pet should not have bad breath. And, if your pet’s kisses or breathing are making the air noxious, it’s time to take a good look at whether their oral hygiene is on-point or could use some serious improvement and pet dental care.
Bad breath in humans is often a sign of something more sinister – unless, of course, you just didn’t floss your teeth that day or chose to have an onion bagel for lunch. For animals, malodorous breath is also a sign that their dental health is not in good shape. There is never a wrong time to put pet dental health on the front burner, but February is National Pet Dental Health Month – start now by getting the facts about pet dental health.
Most dental disease occurs below the gum line.
You can’t see much of a pet’s dental disease, which means the tissues that connect the teeth and jaw are where the real damage is occurring. This is why it’s critical to have your veterinarian examine your pet’s teeth regularly and perform professional cleanings – and why it’s so important that you maintain a teeth cleaning regimen at home as best you can.
Dental disease is the most common health problem among pets.
Nearly 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats suffer from some sort of periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3. Don’t believe your pet could have gum disease? Here are some of the most common symptoms:
- Bad breath
- Red gums
- Broken teeth
- Loose teeth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Discolored teeth
- Dropping food or abnormal chewing
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
Dental health can be an indicator of other pet health problems.
Poor dental health may be just that – teeth and gums that aren’t properly cared for and are falling into disrepair. But in some situations, your pet’s dental health indicates larger systemic problems that are happening, or are connected to inflammatory problems like heart or kidney infections or liver disease. You know your pet best and you know when his behavior is off. Acting out of character is often an indication that your pet does not feel well, and discomfort in the teeth or gums could be the culprit if there are no other visible signs of trouble. Your pet could be suffering with gum disease, but also an abscess or infected tooth, a tumor or cyst in the mouth, a misaligned bite, or fractured jaw.
Brushing your pet’s teeth is the most effective tactic for maintaining dental health.
Ideally, you are able to brush your pet’s teeth daily. This goal is a lofty one and not always realistic. If you manage to get a brush in there and scrub away at least three times a week, as the American Veterinary Medical Foundation recommends, then your pet is in better dental health than most of his peers. If you aren’t sure how to brush your pet’s teeth, ask your vet for a tutorial – oral health is an essential component of overall well-being, for pets and humans. Just remember that the pet treats or products marketed for improving dental health can help keep your pet’s teeth and gums in good shape – but they aren’t enough to get the job done completely. Your vet can recommend the best products for supporting good pet dental health, but you have to brush those canine and kitty chompers too.
Your pet’s teeth and gums should be checked at least once a year by their veterinarian for adequate preventive care so that problems can be caught before they turn into major complications or threaten your pet’s health. If you suspect any oral health problems now with your pet, don’t wait until an annual check-up, grooming, or boarding reservation. Visit the Northpointe Veterinary Hospital, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for fast and comprehensive pet care.