Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will show evidence of dental disease by age 3? That’s a scary statistic and something about which all pet parents should be worried. As people, we usually brush our teeth twice a day (at least), so what should we be doing to make sure our dogs and cats have healthy teeth and gums for their whole lives?
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. Dental health is a very important part of a pet’s overall health. This February is a great time for us to check in on our pet’s teeth and gums, and commit to taking care of them all year long.
Periodontal Disease, Defined
Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue our pets deal with, and it is preventable!
Periodontal disease is an inflammation and infection of the gums, which causes tooth decay and potential tooth loss. It begins when bacteria start to form plaque, which sticks to teeth. Then the plaque hardens and becomes tartar, which binds to our pets’ teeth like cement.
This is the point at which something MUST be done to stop or reverse periodontal disease, or else it will spread under the gum line and the bacteria will start to destroy the tissue supporting and surrounding the tooth.
These changes in the mouth also start to change our pets’ immune systems. This puts other organs in the body directly at risk. The heart, as well as our pets’ kidneys, are at risk for severe problems if a periodontal infection is not treated.
What to Watch for in our Pets
As pet parents, our dogs and cats rely on us to make sure they have healthy teeth and gums. A lot of this responsibility comes in the form of prevention of periodontal disease, but what should we be looking for to see if our pet’s teeth and gums have already begun to deteriorate?
- Bad breath
- Bleeding or swollen gums
- Discolored teeth and gums
- Loose or missing teeth
- Ulcers/pus on gums or tongue
- Trouble eating and chewing or loss of appetite
- Pawing at the mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Tenderness or pain in the mouth
- Change in behavior, especially around food or at mealtimes
Prevention is Key
The best way to avoid all of these issues is to prevent them in the first place. Here are a few ways to make sure our pets’ teeth and gums are healthy for a lifetime:
- The MOST IMPORTANT thing we can do to prevent periodontal disease is to feed our dogs and cats a diet low in sugars and carbohydrates. This will make a HUGE difference. We should all make sure we are buying a good, quality food. Ask your favorite Hollywood Feed associate what they recommend and if your pet’s current food is the right choice.
- Dental toys and treats like Greenies will gently scrape teeth clean and remove excess calcium in the saliva that can be deposited in teeth. Greenies are a good way to prevent tartar build-up.
- **Bones, rawhides, and antlers are good at keeping teeth clean as well, as our dogs will chew and scrape their teeth against them. Check out this Butcher’s Block Jum-Bone.
- Water additives, sprays, and gels that are plaque retardant are another option. Check out this Bluestem Water Additive and Bluestem Oral Spray
- Brushing should be part of your weekly routine, according to vets. Brushing your dog’s and cat’s teeth can help prevent build-up.
- Regular dental check-ups with our veterinarians are important as well, especially if you suspect any issues or see any warning signs.
- Act quickly if you suspect there is a dental issue, and get your pet right in to see the vet!
*Human toothpaste should not be used on pets because they contain harmful chemicals that should not be swallowed.
Prevention and early treatment of periodontal disease is ideal. Making sure our pets are eating a low sugar, low carbohydrate food and providing them with a $5 or $10 bone regularly will help prevent a big issue with a big vet bill in the future.
An average Stage 4 dental cleaning with extractions and pain management will cost well over $500. And depending on the severity and ability to provide treatment, our pets may need to have this procedure performed multiple times.
Untreated dental infections can also lead to infections of major organs, which can threaten our pets’ lives. As humans, we do all that we can to make sure we take care of our own teeth. We need to do the same with our fur babies!
**Remember, always supervise your pet with any toys or chews**