Say Cheese! February Is Pet Dental Health Month

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Did you know that dental care and oral health is just as important for your pets as it is for you? Most people don’t know that, and unfortunately, most pets across the country are receiving little or no dental care at all. February is Pet Dental Health Month, so we thought we would take a look at what you can do at home.

When your veterinarian tells you that your cat or dog has tartar build up and you should be brushing their teeth, what goes through your mind? We certainly never brushed the teeth of any of our dogs growing up, and I don’t know anyone who did. Suddenly oral care for our cats and dogs has become the “in” thing with treats, food, and toys designed and formulated to remove plaque and tartar from teeth while eating or playing. And most veterinarians now offer some type of teeth cleaning services. Is it really that important?

It is.

Dr. Colin Harvey, Professor of Surgery and Dentistry at the University of Pennsylvania had this to say, “Periodontal disease, or gum disease, is very common in dogs and cats, is more frequent and more severe in small dogs than in larger dogs, and is more of a problem in older dogs. There is now good evidence of a relationship between oral health and health of distant organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys.”

Periodontal disease can also cause problems in other organs in humans, too. Scary when you think about it. Another thing that’s scary is that by age two, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral health problems. Signs that your pet already has oral disease can be persistent bad breath, sore or bleeding gums, yellow or brown tartar build up, difficulty chewing – even depression!

So what’s the bottom line? Even though it might seem strange or a little over the top, we need to start caring for our pets’ teeth like we do our own. If you’re not sure where to begin, talk to your veterinarian to come up with the best plan for you and your pet.

In the meantime, here are some steps you can take to make sure your pets get started on the right track:

  1. Invest in a soft bristled finger toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste so that you can begin brushing your pet’s teeth on regular basis
  2. Never give fluoride (or a fluoride toothpaste) to puppies under 6 months of age
  3. Human toothpastes can irritate pets’ stomachs. Makes sure to purchase one meant for pets.
  4. When purchasing food and treats designed to help remove plaque and tartar, make sure they carry the VOHC Accepted seal to ensure they are effective

Additional information is available online from the American Veterinary Medical Association at www.avma.org and from the Pet Dental Month websites at www.petdental.com.

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