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They’re furry, have a tail and love to eat food off the floor – but their teeth are just like ours.  In fact, our pets’ teeth are much more important.  From stealing socks to playing tug of war with the neighbor’s dog, cats and dogs rely on their teeth for every moment of their daily routine.  Dental care is an important aspect of health that pet owners must take into account.

In honor of February as National Pet Dental Health month, 2 Paws Up Inc. is taking a look at the importance of pet dental care in yearly checkups and how to include it in your daily life.

Why is Pet Dental Care Important:

Veterinarians will always include a quick peek at the teeth whenever you bring your pet in, and for a good reason.  Teeth can be the foundation of either complete health of chronic illness.  The reason for this is that periodontal disease often goes unnoticed, but can develop into kidney disease, liver disease, and heart muscle changes if left untreated.  Infections in the tooth or gum can also progress to abscesses and interfere with eating and drinking, leading to more complications.  Preventative care and proactive cleanings are essential to prevent this.

Infections in the teeth can often go unnoticed since they happen below the gum-line, so yearly checkups and visits for dental cleaning are the first lines of defense.

What Does Pet Dental Disease Look Like:

When cats and dogs are young, their teeth look white and even, with pink gums and neutral-smelling breath.  It is estimated, however, that at three years old the family pet will have some form of periodontal disease.  Periodontal disease, or dental disease, is when there is infection or inflammation of the gums or teeth due to the buildup of plaque or injury.

How Will You Tell?

You may be able to tell if your pet has the start of dental disease if they have any of the following symptoms: bad breath, broken teeth, discolored teeth, food dropping from the mouth, chewing only on one side, loss of appetite, changes in temperament or swelling around the mouth.  These symptoms can develop from a range of reasons; the most common is the simple buildup of tartar, which hardens into plaque.  Plaque causes inflammation of the gums and allows decay of the tooth to occur if left alone, sometimes even causing teeth to come loose.  Puppies will lose their puppy teeth naturally, though, so losing teeth in their first year is completely normal.

Broken Teeth

Other causes of dental disease can include broken teeth from excessive chewing, abscesses, misalignment of teeth (unfortunately no doggy braces are available, yet) and injuries to the jaw.

Preventative Pet Dental Care:

The number one tool in an owners’ preventative care for a dental disease will be brushing at home.  This requires quite a bit of training, especially when teaching cats to accept tooth brushing, but a couple of times a week routine is very effective.  Pet toothpaste comes in fun flavors such as liver, tuna, and chicken flavored, so your pet will grow to love the experience, too.  There is a range of products which advertise helping with dental care for pets, but it is always best to speak with your veterinarian before choosing one of these methods.

Veterinary Dental Cleaning

Veterinary dental cleaning is also highly recommended as the best way to do a yearly removal of plaque buildup but also to check for further dental problems.  Your vet will perform a visual check of the teeth to check the overall health of the gums, and possibly to recommend a cleaning.  During this visit, your pet will be anesthetized, which allows for a thorough cleaning without your pet being stressed by invasive inspections and loud machines.  During this cleaning, your pet will be put on a machine to help with their breathing, possibly have x-rays taken, and their teeth will be cleaned with the same machine your dentist uses on your teeth.  Teeth may be removed if needed, and the teeth polished.  Your pet will wake up with fresher breath and a healthy appetite.

February Is National Pet Dental Health Month

As it is national pet dental health month, speak with your local vet office to see if they are providing any special pricing for dental visits.  The next time Fido or Mittens wakes you up by staring intently into your face, only one of you will have to worry about morning breath. If you like this article let us know your thoughts and share your pets pretty smile. We love all our furry friends. If you would like a conversation how we can make your life less stressful knowing you have a pet sitter, dog walker or dog trainer who will be here 365 a year. Please call us 770-695-3096 or email barbie@2pawsupinc.com