Keeping your pets’ teeth clean improves overall health


COLUMBUS, OHIO — FEB. 1, 2011 — We are all aware of the importance of good dental hygiene for ourselves. But how many of us know that it is just as important for our pets? Good oral health has a direct impact on good overall health. While this is important all year round, this month is a reminder to take good care of your pets’ teeth, as February is National Pet Dental Health Month.

Periodontal disease is the most prevalent disease among adult dogs and cats. In fact, 80 percent of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by age 3 (American Veterinary Dental Society). Left unchecked, plaque and subsequent tartar accumulation progresses to infection, destroys the gums, results in the loss of the periodontal structures and ultimately loss of teeth. Worse yet, severe periodontal disease can result in systemic disease, affecting the kidneys, heart muscle and liver.


As in people, periodontal disease is more common as pets grow older. Generally, periodontal disease is more common and occurs at an earlier age in toy and small-breed dogs. It is also more common in certain breeds of cats.

Signs of periodontal disease include bad breath, abnormal drooling, bleeding gums, pawing at the face or mouth, plaque and/or tartar accumulation, change or difficulty of chewing or eating habits. It can also present as subtly as subdued behavior.

So what is a pet owner to do? As with children, good habits are established at a young age and can prevent the disease from even occurring. At-home dental care should be started when the pet is young and free of any signs of oral disease.

The staff at your veterinary hospital can recommend products and give you pointers on how to institute preventive dental care at home. Ideally, this includes daily brushing with a pet-specific toothpaste. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that can upset a pet’s gastrointestinal system, so it should be avoided. If introduced gradually, many pets will accept and even look forward to this one-on-one time with their owners.

If your pet will not tolerate brushing, there are other types of oral care products that you can give your pet to clean his teeth: dental diets, treats, chews, toys, oral rinses and water additives. Check with your veterinarian for recommendations on safe and appropriate products. It is wise to use products approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.

If you suspect a problem, do not wait until it is time for the annual exam. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to evaluate your pet’s oral health and recommend treatment. For pets with periodontal disease, a thorough oral exam and dental cleaning will likely be recommended. This requires general anesthesia, so pre-anesthetic blood work to evaluate organ function will be recommended as a precaution.

Many pet owners are surprised to learn that pets require dental care too. By instituting an at home dental care routine, many oral problems can be prevented, but it is never too late to start. Prevention and treatment of periodontal disease is important to overall health and can affect the longevity and quality of our pet’s lives.


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The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) is a non-profit organization providing services to its members in the areas of continuing education, advocacy on public policy matters, and access to variety of professional resources. The OVMA represents more than 2,400 veterinarians practicing in various fields and specialties. The OVMA’s principal purpose and mission is to foster life-long learning, stewardship, compassion and community in veterinary medicine.

Ohio Veterinary Medical Association
3168 Riverside Drive
Columbus, Ohio 43221
Phone: 614.486.7253
Toll-Free: 800.662.OVMA
Fax: 614.486.1325

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