Dental Awareness Month

by Dr. Shelby

For a pet parent, there’s no greater feeling than the love we get from our pets. When our dogs greet us with gentle, loving kisses on the face or our cats rest on our chests and use us as a bathtub to clean their precious faces, our hearts melt. But as nice as it is to have our pets love us so much, sometimes our noses wrinkle and faces contort because of the horrible odor coming from our pets’ mouths!

Bad breath is a common problem in pets, and the number one sign of more serious problems such as dental disease. In severe and advanced cases, your pet can even develop periodontal disease, leading to tooth loss and/or causing him to drool and stop eating. Over time, bad dental health can cause serious damage to your pet’s heart, kidneys, and other organs, and can even shorten his life span. All that bad bacteria from eating food builds up quickly, especially in animals whose dental hygiene routines are essentially non-existent.

You can learn to brush your pet’s teeth with pet-safe toothpaste and a special toothbrush. That may sound crazy, but I’ve known pets that seem to actually like the taste of the toothpaste and/or like to chomp on the toothbrush bristles. You can feed your pet special “dental treats” that are formulated to help break off tartar buildup. Because they’re treats, most pets will enjoy these. Neither of these things, however, will address the deeper issue of what’s happening to all that bacteria just beneath the gum line.

While we can brush our pets’ teeth for them (if they’ll allow us to do so), the sad reality is that your dog or cat still doesn’t go to the dentist. Think about it: You brush your teeth at least twice a day everyday. You floss. You use mouthwash. Nevertheless, you need to go to the dentist for a professional cleaning every 6 months or yearly. The same holds true for your pet. Depending on a number of factors, including breed, genetics, and diet, your pet could need professional cleanings as often as every 6 months or as infrequently as every few years. These cleanings need to be done under anesthesia, since your pet wouldn’t understand holding still and opening wide when instructed. This also ensures that your veterinarian can get to the area beneath the gum line.

February is Dental Awareness Month, and also Responsible Pet Ownership Month, so there’s no time like the present to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a professional dental cleaning, or at least a thorough dental exam to determine whether a cleaning is necessary. Your pet will thank you with loving kisses that smell much more pleasant and, more importantly, better health.