Like their human companions, dogs and cats can suffer from a number of oral health conditions that lead to discomfort and pain. Unfortunately, animal dental care often goes neglected. A recent study by the American Animal Hospital Association found that roughly two-thirds of pet owners do not provide the essential dental care recommended by veterinarians.
Why is Animal Dental Care Necessary?
Dental care is an important factor in ensuring quality of life among our pets. The toothache that can ruin your day can make your pet miserable as well and oral problems aren’t just confined to the mouth. Poor oral health can lead to more serious and life-threatening diseases of the heart, lungs or kidneys. Taking care of your pet’s teeth may not only relieve pain, it can also prove a lifesaver.
Common Pet Oral Problems
- Periodontal and Gum Disease – Gum disease is the most common pet oral disease. It begins when plaque deposits present on the teeth move under the gum line. The bacteria within the plaque secrete toxins, which trigger the pet’s immune system. In the fight to destroy the bacteria, however, your pet’s immune system actually destroys gum and tooth tissue. If left untreated, severe periodontal disease can result in missing teeth and damage to the jaw bone.
- Tooth Fracture – Dogs are particularly susceptible to tooth fracture. As many of us know, dogs enjoy chewing on pretty much everything. Chewing on tough objects, however, can result in broken and cracked teeth. A severely fractured tooth can cause your pet extreme pain and possibly lead to bacterial infection.
- Oral Cancer – Occurring more frequently in dogs than cats, oral cancer is still a major health risk for both animals. Oral cancer in humans and animals typically begins as a lesion in or around the mouth. But while a human can talk to a doctor, animals just live with the cancerous growth. By the time that owners notice tumors, it’s often too late.
- Cavities – Dogs and cats are less likely than humans to develop cavities but the possibility still remains. Cats, in particular, have unusual cavities that develop underneath the gum line and can only be detected by a bleeding or swelling in the gums.
Caring for Your Pet’s Oral Health
The best way to address animal oral health issues is prevention. And the best step towards prevention is making sure that your pet sees a veterinarian regularly. Your vet should begin monitoring your pet’s oral health at an early age and continue throughout its life. Moreover, you should schedule annual teeth cleanings with your vet’s office. Regular cleanings will significantly decrease the likelihood of periodontal disease and catch potentially dangerous lesions within your pet’s mouth.
In addition to taking your pet to the vet, you can also institute some dental care at home. Consider brushing your pet’s teeth periodically with a finger brush or other specialized instrument. Pet toothpaste flavors include poultry, fish and beef. There are also a number of dog and cat foods on the market that actually work to clean teeth and remove plaque.
Lastly, make sure you monitor your pet. If your cat or dog has truly repulsive breath, it may be a sign of periodontal disease. Moreover, watching your pet eat can tell you a lot about your pet’s oral health. If your dog or cat is dropping food while eating this may indicate severe dental pain. Look for signs of bleeding in the mouth and note any loss of appetite. A dog or cat that routinely refuses a meal may be more than just a picky eater.
Taking care of your pet’s oral health is one of the best steps you can take towards improving your pet’s overall health and keeping your furry companion happy. Talk to your veterinarian today and set up a dental care plan for your pet.
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