Show us your pet’s pearly whites during National Pet Dental Month

Your pet’s pearly whites need some attention, and there’s no better time than National Pet Dental Month to take a deeper look into your furry friend’s oral health! Just like their humans, your pet’s teeth are an important part of their health, and that’s no laughing matter. For the 81 percent of us (and that number does not come from any sort of formal scientific study, so we’ll call it a guess) who don’t brush our pet’s teeth or think about their general oral care, there’s no reason to neglect this vital piece of the healthcare routine. Let’s look at the reasons why and see if we can decrease that percentage.

Mouth + teeth + gums (can) = dental disease when left untreated. The consequences can cause bad breath, painful chewing and tooth discoloration and loss in cats and dogs. When bacteria get under the gum line, it can lead to inflammation and bleeding and can travel to different organs in the body and cause even more harm.

So, what can you do to help support your companion’s dental health? Pet owners can provide a well-balanced, high quality food for their pet. There are certain prescription and non-prescription foods that target prevention and minimization of dental disease, such as Hills® Prescription Diet® t/d®, which helps to break away excess buildup on the teeth.

Did you know there are special cat and dog toothbrushes available at many pet stores and veterinary offices, as well as toothpaste formulated especially for cats and dogs in tasty flavors like beef or poultry? Your minty fresh toothpaste is not safe for pets even though you might like a whiff of that menthol scent during their slurpy kisses or snuggle time. In the ideal world, pet owners should brush their pets’ teeth daily. “Many pets can be trained to accept a toothbrush and are actually excited to get their teeth brushed every day,” said Dr. Cecily Palamara, chief veterinarian at the Dumb Friends League.

Pets should receive regular veterinary exams, and owners should follow the veterinarian’s advice for dental cleanings. The only way to remove plaque and tartar from teeth is by having a professional dental cleaning. It’s also an excellent opportunity for the doctor to assess the health of your pet’s mouth, including their tongue, gums and lips.

Our equine friends also need regular dental care. Because horses’ teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, uneven wear can lead to sharp points and edges that cause pain and difficulty chewing. Floating is the process in which horses’ teeth are smoothed and contoured. It has nothing to do with water—a “float” is actually a type of file used in the process. Most horses need to have their teeth floated at least once per year, including a general oral examination.

“Oral health is key to maintaining long term quality of life in our pets. Keeping up with regular veterinary dental care throughout a pet’s life will help to keep their teeth healthy and pain free,” said Palamara. “Many of the homeless pets that we see at the Dumb Friends League have not received any dental care at all. As a result, they come to the League in severe pain and require major dental procedures involving extraction of most of their teeth. This suffering is preventable through regular veterinary dental checkups and cleanings.”

In so many ways, our pets are just like us, and regular dental care is essential for their comfort, health and well-being throughout their lives. Don’t wait until their breath is worse than their bite!

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