February is National Pet Dental Health Month and veterinary hospitals across the nation will be putting extra effort into promoting the importance of dental health for dogs and cats. This is an important topic, and one that is often overlooked by pet owners.
Most of the clients that we see seem to understand the importance of many of the components of a good preventative healthcare program for their pets (e.g., yearly examinations by their veterinarian, vaccinations, and parasite control). However, the importance of dental health has not yet gained the same recognition.
The Importance of Dental Health:
All pets will develop some degree of dental disease during their life. In fact, dental disease is the most common health problem diagnosed in pets. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), approximately 70% of cats and 80% of dogs will show some sign of dental disease by the time they reach 3 years of age.
Most cases of dental disease start with the accumulation of bacteria-containing plaque and tartar on the animal’s teeth. Over time, the disease will progress, often leading to severe gum disease, oral abscesses, and tooth loss. There is also evidence that poor dental health may contribute to disease in other organs, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys. Therefore, good dental health is truly a critical component of keeping your pet healthy and happy.
Some of the most common signs of dental disease in pets include:
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Visible plaque and tartar accumulation on the teeth
- Red and inflamed gums
- Pain and/or bleeding when the gums are touched
- Loose or missing teeth
- Difficulty or pain when eating