February is National Pet Dental Health Month, a time for recognizing the importance of dental health in our pets and encouraging pet parents to take great care of their pets’ teeth. An entire month is dedicated to raising awareness of pet dental disease and prevention. That’s because dental care for dogs and cats is extremely important in relation to overall pet health. Did you know that periodontal disease is one of the most common and overlooked diseases in veterinary medicine?
Just like in humans, poor dental health can result in serious health issues such as heart disease, increased risk of cancer, increased risk of diabetes and pancreatic disease, amongst others. So why is dental disease an epidemic? What can we do as pet owners to ensure our pets live longer and happier lives by preventing periodontal disease? The first step is to have your pet’s teeth evaluated by your veterinarian. Many pet parents do not even realize their pets have dental disease. Commonly, my clients bring their pets to see me with complaints that their breath smells horrible or that their eating habits have changed. These are the most common signs of periodontal disease. Recognizing the signs is the first step in improving overall pet health and dental care for dogs and cats.
The following are some clinical signs that may suggest your pet has periodontal disease:
• Halitosis (bad breath). Persistent bad breath is generally the first sign my pet parents notice. Regularly brushing your pet’s teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste is the best way to prevent bad breath. Check out Virbac C.E.T. Enzymatic Dog & Cat Vanilla-Mint Flavor Toothpaste and Virbac C.E.T. Pet Toothbrush for pet-safe and veterinarian recommended options.
• Gums that bleed easily. Is there blood on your pet’s bones or toys? This is a sign of possible gingivitis in cat teeth or dog teeth, and should be evaluated by your veterinarian. If your pet is sensitive to brushing, dental chews, such as Greenies Regular Dental Dog Treats and Greenies Feline Oven Roasted Chicken Flavor Dental Cat Treats, are a great start to improving dental health and easing into regular brushing.
• Changes in eating behaviors. If your pet is eating their pet food slower or chews only on one side of the mouth, this can be a sign of pain and possible periodontal disease.
• Loss of appetite. Always have your pets evaluated by your veterinarian when they are not eating.
• Pawing at the mouth. This can be a sign of oral pain.
• Sensitivity around the mouth. If your pet no longer allows you to rub their chin or mouth area, this may be a sign of discomfort due to dental disease.
• Loose or missing teeth.
• Yellow or brown hardened material on the tooth. It’s usually tartar and needs to be cleaned professionally with a scaler and ultrasonic cleaner by your veterinarian.
• Discoloration of a tooth. Discoloration may indicate a tooth root abscess or decaying tooth.
• Purulent exudate (pus) around the tooth. Your pet might have an infection.
• Gums that are inflamed (red), hyperplastic, or receding. This might signify gingivitis.
• Swelling under the eye. This may suggest a possible tooth root abscess, and it needs to be addressed immediately with your veterinarian.
• Constant nasal discharge. It may be a sign of periodontal disease.
• No signs at all. Many pets will not show any clinical signs that they are suffering with periodontal disease. It is imperative to visit your veterinarian for a thorough examination and dental cleaning annually or biannually.
Pets cannot verbalize to us when they have subtle oral pain or they are not feeling well. Biannual examinations and dental cleanings with your veterinarian are important for proper dog and cat dental care regardless of whether your pet is exhibiting signs of disease. Unfortunately, poor dental health is the most overlooked cause of disease that I see. Early detection and prevention of periodontal disease are imperative for maintaining overall pet health and well-being of your pet. I hope this helps inspire you to check out those dog teeth and cat teeth ASAP and make an appointment with the vet for a dental exam. And remember that dog and cat dental care should happen not only in February, but all year long.