Dental Care for Pets
by Renee Jones-Lewis CPDT-KA
February is National Pet Dental Month
Keeping your pets' teeth clean & their gums healthy is important for more than just pleasant breath. Many veterinarians feel that oral disease is the number one health problem diagnosed in dogs. Most dogs should receive professional dental care by age two to three years. The frequency of dental examinations, scaling and polishing depends on how quickly calculus forms on the dog's teeth. By age three, 80% of dogs are showing some symptoms of oral disease. Although dogs rarely get cavities, they are prone to gum disease & excess tartar build-up on the teeth.
Food particles & bacteria collect along the gum line forming plaque. Brushing your pet's teeth can remove this plaque. If the plaque is not removed, tartar will begin to form on the teeth. Tartar is irritating to the gums and causes gingivitis. At this point it is necessary to remove the plaque with special instruments called Dental Scalers.
If the tartar is not removed, it will build up under the gums and encourage more bacterial growth. Your pet may then develop periodontal disease. This can lead to loose teeth, painful abscesses, bone loss or infection. This infection can cause damage to the heart valves, liver and kidneys. Your pet would then need to be treated by your veterinarian to slow or stop the periodontal disease.
At home, examine your pet's teeth and follow these guidelines:
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- Feed a dry kibble diet. Dry foods are abrasive and keep the teeth clean. If you prefer to feed canned food, offer some dry biscuits or cookies daily.
- Brush the teeth and gums three times a week using a tooth paste made for dogs. Do not use a toothpaste made for humans. Its foaming action is unpleasant to dogs, and dogs cannot spit and rinse after using it.
- Provide your dog with toys and chews designed to remove plaque are all first-line-of-defense measures that you can take to ensure your pet will have a healthy dental life. Avoid feeding chicken bones and long bones that splinter.
- Schedule annual veterinary visits for cleaning and, if necessary, scaling. A yearly check-up is the best prevention against dental problems.
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Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.