You know how we always hope someone would tell us if we had bad breath? Well, your pet’s counting on you to be that true friend. Act accordingly by brushing up on the importance of cat and dog dental health care!
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some degree of periodontal disease by age three. Periodontal disease can not only cause infection, bone loss and painful abscesses in the mouth, but we’re becoming increasingly aware of whole-body issues relating to problems starting in the mouth. Serious forms of kidney, heart, and liver disease have all been linked to bacteria entering the bloodstream from a dental infection.
Proper pet dental care has two components: home care and veterinary care.
Home is where the health is
Clients often ask me how often they should brush their pet’s teeth. I always ask them how often they clean their own! The same rules apply; it’s bacteria and plaque that are causing the damage. Brushing your pet’s teeth once daily is the #1 way to reduce the risk of dental disease in your pets.
An instructional video on how to do this for dogs can be found on the Virbac website. Virbac makes a wide range of dental health products for pets, and I’ve had particularly good luck with their enzymatic toothpastes. For cats, it can be a little different, but Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has produced an educational video to help.
Home care can also include specialist diets, medicated chews and even supplements you can add to their drinking water.
The professional touch
While there is an increasing level of specialization in the veterinary field, your regular veterinarian can still take care of most of your pet’s health needs, including dental care. Your veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth during their annual exam and assess whether or not a dental cleaning is required.
These cleanings are performed while your pet is under anesthesia, as this allows a complete exam of your pet’s mouth while enabling veterinary staff to thoroughly clean and polish the teeth. It also allows them to assess the areas below the gum-line that you can’t see and determine whether there are any teeth that may require additional work or even extraction.
Some pets can go their whole lives without requiring a dental cleaning, whereas some will need it annually. Breed often has a lot to do with this; some breeds just have bad teeth! Whether it’s because of overcrowding of the mouth or the species of bacteria they cultivate, breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, Bichon Frise, Miniature Pinscher and Greyhound are particularly prone to dental disease and may require more frequent treatment than others.
So, to paraphrase my dentist, you don’t have to look after all of your pet’s teeth, just the ones you want them to keep! Seriously, dental disease in our pets is a subject that is starting to receive more and more attention as we make links between poor dental health and poor health overall. Looking after your pet’s teeth really can benefit them more than just getting extra kisses because of nice-smelling breath!