Pets and Oral Health
Have you ever taken your pet to the vet for a dental check-up? Maybe your animal is young, and dental disease seems impossible. Or maybe your animal is older but has never presented signs of oral health issues.
However, dental disease can begin in early and by the age of three, most pets show some signs of disease according to American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). American Veterinary Dental College estimates that 70 per cent of cats and 80 per cent of dogs over the age of three have dental disease. Dental disease is classified by a build-up of bacteria, plaque, and tartar on the teeth which eventually gets trapped under the gums. It’s a painful condition and can go for years without detection. Without treatment, dental disease bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect major organs in the body.
One of the reasons oral diseases often go unnoticed is that animals have good pain control. However, they may show behavior changes like decreased appetite, low energy, or irritability. It’s important to note changes in your pet’s behavior since they may be linked to larger health issues.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends having animal’s teeth checked once each year. Most vets will begin with an oral exam and then move on to radiographs, or x-rays, if needed. Radiographs show the jaw and tooth roots below the gumline where dental disease occurs. Similar to a human dental cleaning, vets may also scale and polish your pet’s teeth to clear plaque and tartar. Anesthetic is used for x-rays and dental procedures. This helps keep the animal calm and still so that the vet can do a thorough exam. Anesthetic is a common practice within vet clinics. Most animals only feel groggy after being under anesthetic.
Some signs that your pet may need to have a dental exam are: bad breath, broken or loose teeth, discolored or tartar covered teeth, abnormal chewing or drooling, decrease in appetite, pain around mouth, blood in mouth, or swelling around mouth.
Home care is an essential preventive measure to keep your pet’s oral health in check. AAHA recommends daily brushing if your pet will allow it. You can buy dog or cat sized toothbrushes and flavored toothpastes from pet stores. It’s important to never use human toothpaste on your pet since it is toxic for them. Similarly, not all products that advertise dental health are good. It’s important to check with a vet to see what they can recommend specific to your animal. There is a range of vet approved dental foods, treats, and toys that you can make a part of preventive home care.
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