Is taking better care of your pet’s pearly whites on your list of New Year’s resolutions? If it’s not, it may be time to reconsider. Pet dental care is one of the most important, yet overlooked, areas of pet health. In fact, good dental health is just as important as proper nutrition, adequate exercise, and yearly vaccines when it comes to your pet’s overall wellness and longevity.
The Tooth of the Matter
By age 3, the majority of dogs and cats begin to show signs of periodontal disease, an infection of the teeth, gums, and surrounding structures. If untreated, periodontal disease can negatively affect other parts of the body. Besides causing your pet significant pain and potential tooth loss, there is a strong link between dental disease and other conditions, such as heart and kidney disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Signs of periodontal disease in pets include:
- Foul breath
- Red or inflamed gums
- Excessive drooling
- Yellow or brown buildup (tartar) on the teeth
- Swollen jaws or mouth
- Loose teeth
- Pain while eating, loss of appetite
- Pawing at the mouth
Please give us a call if you notice any of the above symptoms in your pet.
Home Pet Dental Care
Just like with people, tooth brushing is one of the most important components of dental care for pets. Brushing your pet’s teeth may be the last thing you want to do, but regular brushing can have a lasting, positive impact on his or her oral health.
Besides brushing your pet’s teeth daily (or at least regularly) with a pet-specific toothpaste (never use human toothpaste, as it may contain ingredients that are toxic to pets), there are other preventive actions you can take to keep your pet’s mouth as healthy as possible:
- Provide good nutrition in the form of a high quality, dry food. Certain formulations may help scrape plaque from the teeth. In certain cases, your veterinarian may prescribe a “dental diet” to get your pet’s mouth back on track.
- Once per week, lift your pet’s lips and inspect the teeth and inside of the mouth for any problems or abnormalities.
- Dental-specific chews may help keep teeth healthy in between brushing. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.
The Dental Exam
Even if your pet isn’t showing any signs of dental disease, his or her oral health should be evaluated at least once per year. During the annual wellness exam, your veterinarian will carefully examine your pet’s mouth and make recommendations as to follow up professional and home dental care.
Dental Care for Exotics
Ferrets, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, and other exotic pets also suffer the negative effects of tartar buildup and dental disease.
Most exotic pets should have a thorough oral examination performed by your veterinarian each year as part of the annual wellness exam. Some exotics, such as ferrets and bearded dragon lizards, need dental cleaning and scaling to maintain good oral health.