That is a great question to look into as we enter February, which is Pet Dental Month in the veterinary world. While some owners just do not like being licked, most that try to avoid the kisses do so because of the bad breath that comes along with them.
Over the next couple weeks, we will take a look at dental disease in a cats and dogs and tips for maintaining a healthy mouth.
Dental disease starts when bacteria attach to film that is covering the teeth and causes plaque. As those bacteria die and plaque continues to build, it turns into calculus. As plaque and calculus work their way under the gingiva (gums) they injure tissue which leads to loose teeth and eventually destruction of the bone surrounding the teeth.
These conditions can lead to a very painful mouth for your pet. In addition to a painful mouth, debris in the mouth can loosen and enter the bloodstream.
Once bacteria and debris are in the bloodstream there is a chance that they can affect the liver, heart, lungs, or kidneys.
The reason for dental disease usually falls into one of two categories. The first reason is feeding canned or soft foods. These foods give little to no benefits to the teeth and gums because they require little to no chewing. The second reason is genetics. Similar to humans, some animals have more dental problems than others due to genetics.
Feeding dry food and dental treats can help with dental disease but many animals, especially small breed dogs, will still need additional care.
Studies done at the Ohio State University and Cornell University have found that 85% of dogs and cats over six years old have some form of dental disease.
In order to monitor your pet for dental disease you can evaluate the mouth once a month for bad breath, red swollen gums, tartar (yellow or brown accumulation on teeth), loose teeth, or chipped or broken teeth. You can also monitor your pet refusal to eat, dropping food, or changes in chewing habits which can indicate mouth pain.
More advanced cases of dental disease will require a dental cleaning under anesthesia. If you see signs of dental disease when examining your pet’s mouth, you should schedule an exam with your veterinarian to discuss if your pet would benefit from a dental cleaning.
Stay tuned for next week’s article which will review dental home care and some of the dental products available for at-home care.