Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month? Taking care of your pet’s teeth is of the upmost importance for so many reasons and their teeth should be checked out by your veterinarian at least once a year to make sure that all is well. Providing regular, year round dental care can also help your pet!
Like people, our pets can also develop dental problems and for many of these animals, things like bad breath, reduced appetite, or abnormal chewing can all be signs of said problems. Keep a look out for issues like:
- Bad breath (more so than the usual ‘bad breath’ that many dogs have!)
- Refusing to eat
- Broken/loose teeth
- Extra or retained baby teeth
- Bleeding from or swelling around the mouth
- Dropping food or abnormal drooling
If your cat or dog experiences any of these symptoms or any more, it’ll be important to contact your vet about it. These symptoms can indicate that there’s a problem like: a broken tooth or even a broken jaw; cysts, tumors, abscesses, or infected teeth; periondontal disease (also known as gum disease); or defects like cleft palate. Your vet should be able to help find what the problem is and at the very least, refer you to a specialist who could best help with the problem.
Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental problems in pets, as it results from a build up of plaque that hardens into tartar. Any tartar buildup below the gum line is hard to see and clean, damaging, and could lead to issues with their teeth and jaws. But leaving any dental health problem in your pet untreated can cause other issues for them down the line. Periodontal disease has also been known to affect the kidney, liver, and heart muscles.
- [University of Illinois] Program Aims to Expand Needy Families’ Access to Pet Care by Debra Pressey, The News-Gazette
Prevention and Care
The good news is that while problems in your pet’s dental health can be scary, there are often ways to provide dental care and prevent any problems. Regularly brushing and taking care of your pet’s teeth can help prevent gum disease and regular professional cleaning can help find any problems and thoroughly clean your pet’s teeth. Professional dental cleaning from a vet does require that your pet go under anesthesia though, as doing it without doesn’t allow for a thorough and safe inspection of everything that’s going on in your pet’s mouth.
- There are some factors that make going under a higher risk and you should have a conversation with a professional about doing so. If you want to know more about when your pet might need anesthesia for any medical procedure, I recommend reading through ‘When Your Pet Needs Anesthesia’ from the American Veterinary Medical Association and talking with your vet before the procedure.
There are ways in which to brush your pet’s teeth with the right kind of toothpaste, although it can be a stressful thing for everyone involved. I recommend talking to your vet about what kinds of pet toothpaste to use, as people toothpaste can cause other kinds of issues! Brushing daily is one of the most effective ways to prevent any problems and plaque/tartar build up but even just brushing relatively regularly could make a difference. There are also special treats, toys, and kinds of food that can at least help reduce or delay build up but aren’t 100% effective.
Proper dental care and emergency dental problems are just some of the many added expenses to having a pet. But being proactive in taking care of your pet’s health, including the health of their teeth, jaws, and mouths, can make a difference in preventing some problems that might arise later on. It’s no guarantee that your pet’s dental health will be perfect throughout their life but can at least prevent problems that take years to build to.
If you have questions about the best ways to care for your pet’s dental health, talk to your vet about it during the next time you and your pet go in for a visit! However, if you do see any symptoms indicating that your pet might have some dental issues, I recommend at least contacting your vet about the problem. They’ll be able to work with you on it.