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beyond bad breath

You may think your pet’s foul breath just interferes with your time together (no kisses, thank you!), but it can also be a killer. 

Dental disease starts when bacteria accumulate at the gum line around your pet’s tooth, leading to tartar build-up and eventually gingivitis. But the damage doesn’t end there. The bacteria can enter your pet’s bloodstream through his gums. While most pets normally have some level of bacteremia (bacteria in the bloodstream), in chronic cases associated with severe dental disease, the immune system becomes overwhelmed. This is why dental disease can cause damage to other major organs, such as:

the heart: Studies have linked gum disease with endocardiosis, or inflammation and infection of the heart valves. 

the kidneys: Glomerulonephritis is a disease of the kidneys that results in a leaky filtration system, and valuable protein is lost through the diseased kidneys. Chronic inflammation, such as that caused by chronic dental disease, can lead to glomerulonephritis.

the liver: Bacteria in the bloodstream can travel to the liver and cause infection. Liver disease can cause jaundice, decreased appetite and progressive lethargy.

Dental health is often overlooked when considering preventive health care, but it’s one of the easiest ways you can help keep your pet at his healthiest. Talk to your veterinarian about how regular professional cleanings under anesthesia and at-home dental health care (including brushing and using dental gels or rinses) can help minimize the impact of dental disease.

While your pet may try to tiptoe away when you break out the toothbrush, he will thank you for it later — and since his bad breath will be history, you’ll welcome those kisses!

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