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National Pet Dental Health Month

As a responsible pet parent, you make sure your pets are up to date on their shots and get plenty of exercise. But when was the last time you had your pet’s teeth examined by a vet? While a pet’s health is important, dental health must not be overlooked. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has estimated that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three. To raise awareness and educate pet parents on the importance of dental health, the AVMA has declared February as National Pet Dental Health Month.

Bad breath, loose or discarded teeth, and dental tartar are common signs of oral disease. If tartar is not removed, bacteria can start to cause inflammation along the gums, as well as the ligaments that connect them to the teeth. This tenderness of the gums can turn into gingivitis, causing gums to become red, swollen and to bleed easily. In the last stages of gingivitis, the tissue that surrounds a tooth will eventually decay, causing the tooth to become loose, or even fall out. Not only will this cause a pet to have bad breath, but it is a very painful process for the pet to go through. Pets with developing gingivitis and periodontal diseases may paw at their face or mouth, have excessive drool, and may refuse to eat hard foods or treats. While some pet owners may think gingivitis is not a serious problem, it can cause serious health issues such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease that can decrease a pet’s life expectancy. Bacteria in a pet’s mouth can also get into the bloodstream and move to various organs such as the heart, causing infections that can potentially cause death.

Luckily, there are easy steps pet parents can take to help keep their pet’s teeth healthy. At least once a year, a pet should be taken to a veterinarian so that their teeth can be examined. If there is tartar buildup, a dental cleaning should be scheduled. During the exam, a vet will remove the tartar, take a look at the gums, examine the rest of the teeth for damage or decay and apply fluoride to strengthen the teeth. After the cleaning, pet parents can ask their vet about nutritional supplements to help keep their pet’s teeth healthy, or how to brush their pet’s teeth themselves, which is recommended. There are special toothbrushes and toothpastes for pets in your local pet supply store. There are also specially formulated snacks and foods that help remove plaque and tarter from pets’ teeth, or toxin-free toys that a vet can recommend.

Keeping in mind the significance of oral health to a pet’s overall health, prevention has many lasting positive effects for pets. Pet parents have many options and resources to help them keep their pet’s teeth pearly white.

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