Pet Dental Health Month
By 2 years of age, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease (Today's Veterinary Practice). This shocking statistic is just one indication that most pets are not receiving good dental care. To highlight this issue and spread awareness on the importance of pet dental care, February is to be National Pet Dental Health Month. Here are a few things you can do to help the cause:
Be Prepared & Educate Yourself
One reason that many pets aren’t receiving adequate dental care is that some pet parents don’t know the level of care that is required. The first step is to educate yourself about dental care best practices and signs that could indicate that your pet might need a dental regime.
Periodontal disease progresses in two stages: gingivitis and periodontitis. Plaque and bacteria can accumulate on your pets’ teeth, eventually mineralizing into a layer of tartar. As the tartar encounters the gums, it can cause inflammation, resulting in gingivitis. In as little as a week without dental care, pets can develop gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis: the inflammation of the tissue surrounding and supporting the teeth.
A few signs that your pet may be suffering from periodontal disease include:
Teeth that are discoloured or covered in tartar
Loose or missing teeth
Favouring one side of the mouth when chewing
Drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
Symptoms of periodontal disease can vary based on your pet’s specific species and breed.
Practice, Practice, Practice
It may be tempting to rely on products like dental chews, or breath freshening treats, but these products simply won’t resolve dental health problems. The gold standard to treat dental health problems is to brush their teeth every day. Even after teeth are completely cleaned, plaque forms on tooth surfaces within 24 hours (Today's Veterinary Practice), so it is imperative to remain observant.
Despite your best intentions, your pet may resist brushing, so getting into the habit of brushing every day will require some patience. Take small steps, like getting your pet used to touching the outside of its mouth. Make sure to provide treats and ample praise with every step made. Let your pet sniff or lick the toothbrush and VOHC accepted toothpaste to get acquainted with the products before using them.
The process of training your pet to accept brushing could take several days, or even weeks, but it’s well worth it for the health benefits! Don’t rush the process, as your goal is to make brushing a positive, routine experience.
Even if you are brushing your pet's teeth every day, it’s important to check in with a professional, such as a Veterinarian. Whether you look up a veterinarian online, or are referred by a friend, make sure that they are licensed to work. Getting regular exams will keep you informed on the state of your pet’s dental health. Brushing your pet’s teeth will remove plaque and bacteria, but once plaque has hardened into tartar, you will need the help of a veterinarian dentist to properly remove it. Your veterinarian can provide professional cleanings as necessary. We recommend getting an examination at least once every 12 months, or more frequently if your pet has been diagnosed with dental problems.
Share and Spread the Word!
As you continue to learn more about pet dental care, teach your friends and family! Challenge them to test their knowledge by taking the Petdentist Dental Quiz. If you find a great toothpaste or an amazing veterinarian dentist, let people know! If you found this article helpful, share it with your fellow pet parents, or on social media! You are an important part of a huge community of animal lovers, and you can make a difference in the lives of pets who aren’t getting the care they need. Even just by starting a conversation about this issue, you’ll be doing your part to spread awareness.