Pet Dental Health
Posted March 13, 2013
We all know that our teeth are important. We even visit our
dentist regularly to have teeth cleanings and oral exams. Keeping
our teeth clean is vital to our health and well-being, and that is
no different for our pets.
"Ideally, you should brush your pet's teeth daily," states Dr.
Johnathon Dodd, clinical professor at Texas A&M's College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Make sure you are
using special toothpaste that is made for pets and is safe for them
to swallow. They cannot spit or rinse like we do, so our pets need
specific kinds of toothpaste that is not harmful if ingested."
Having your pet's teeth inspected and cleaned is an important
responsibility many owners overlook. This seemingly slight slip of
your pet's dental care could be causing serious problems in your
Gum disease is the most common disease occurring in pets today.
It results from the build-up of soft dental plaque on the surfaces
of the teeth around the gums. The bacteria in dental plaque
irritate the gum tissue if it accumulates, which leads to infection
in the bone surrounding the teeth.
After plaque has formed hard dental tartar, calcium salts from
saliva that has been deposited on plaque, begins to grow. If the
surface of the tooth does not stay clean, tartar begins to form
within a few days.
The un-brushed tooth provides a surface that boosts further
plaque accumulation. If plague is allowed to accumulate, tartar is
difficult to remove without dental instruments.
For our pets gum disease means bad breath and painful, irritated
gums that can lead to bleeding, loss of appetite, and the loss of
teeth if the roots have been affected.
There is also the possibility that the bacteria surrounding the
root of the tooth gains access to the bloodstream, which can lead
to microscopic damage of the heart, liver, and kidney. As the
severity of the gum disease increases, so does the damage.
The best way to ward off potential oral disease in your pet is
by keeping your pet's teeth clean and checkups regular.
Your veterinarian and local pet retail stores should carry
toothbrushes and toothpaste for your pets. Different flavors of
toothpastes are available for dog and cats.
"Your pet needs to get their teeth cleaned yearly," said Dodd.
"Most veterinary clinics should offer dental cleaning services, but
if they do not they can refer you to someone who does."
To help ward off gum diseases and bad breath, there are products
you can feed your pet that help improve and promote oral
"There are certain dog treats that help promote good dental
health," said Dodd. "The right kind of treat should crumble, be
easily crushed, and contain chlorhexadine or a hydrogen
peroxide-type additive that can help with the bacteria count in the
animal's mouth. Balancing this bacteria count can help prevent and
get rid of bad breath."
A helpful guide to go by when considering your pets' oral health
is the Veterinary Oral Health Council website. They have a compiled
list of products that are intended to help reduce the buildup of
plaque and tartar on the teeth of animals and have created the VOHC
seal of approval. To see the full list of VOHC approved products
Brushing your pet's teeth, taking them for a yearly visit to the
dentist, and giving them VOHC approved products are all ways that
you can help make sure your pet has a clean and healthy mouth.
About Pet Talk
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk.
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