Did you know your pet's dental health is just as important as yours?
As a pet parent it is very important to become familiar with your pet's mouth, breath, and teeth. One thing you can do with your pet at an early age is to touch and examine the pet's mouth regularly, looking for any abnormalities, bad breath, or anything that seems painful to your pet. A watchful eye can quickly pick up on changes that may indicate a problem.
Good oral care can make a huge difference in your pet's health and comfort. There are a few things you can do at home to promote good oral health and prevent plaque and tartar build up which cause periodontal disease. Brushing with toothpaste is the most effective way to keep your pet's teeth clean. Using either a toothbrush or a fingerbrush (dependent upon your pet's preference) and a pet safe toothpaste, gently brush your pet's teeth in a circular motion paying special attention to the back teeth as this is where tartar accumulates the quickest. Plaque is the cause of periodontal disease and with frequent (daily) brushing you are preventing plaque from turning into tartar on your pet's teeth.
Oral rinses and gels can also be used. These help to freshen breath by eliminating odor-causing bacteria and are fairly easy to apply. Gently spray the rinse or apply the gel to both the inside and outside of all the teeth. Another variation of an oral anti-septic is a water additive that you simply add to your pet's water bowl daily to help maintain oral hygiene and freshen breath. Dental chews and chew toys are a fun and easy at home preventative. Some dental chews contain an ingredient called chlorhexidine which helps prevent tartar build-up.
Periodontal disease is one of the most commonly occurring diseases in pets and is entirely preventable. Periodontal disease can be present in your pet as early as three years old. It is estimated that by age 3, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease (according to AVMA.org). Often periodontal disease goes under-treated and can cause many problems in your pet's mouth and can be associated with damage to internal organs as your pet ages. Periodontal disease starts when the bacteria in the mouth forms plaque which sticks to the surface of the teeth. Next, minerals in your pet's saliva help harden the plaque on the teeth creating tartar which firmly attaches to the teeth and spreads under the gum line. Tartar causes damage to the supporting tissue around the tooth eventually leading to tooth loss if the tartar is not removed.
Periodontal disease not only affects your pet's teeth but also the immune system and the rest of the body. When the supporting tissue of the teeth is affected by bacteria, the body launches an attack on the bacteria but is not able to resolve the disease. The white blood cells become overwhelmed. If the plaque and tartar are not removed through cleaning, a viscous cycle begins and results in more damage to the gums and bone surrounding the teeth. Damage from periodontal disease can include loss of gum tissue, loss of bone around the teeth, fistulas (a hole from inside the mouth leading to the nose causing nasal discharge), and jaw fractures. The bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream and be carried throughout the pet's body causing changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.
At home dental care and regular dental cleanings are important to keep your pet healthy and pain free by decreasing the likelihood of periodontal disease. Remember a dental chew a day can keep the periodontal disease away!