Smile! February is National Pet Dental Month

Your pet’s teeth are an important part of their health. Their pearly whites, just like their humans, need attention, and there’s no better time than National Pet Dental Month to take a deeper look into your furry friend’s oral health!

We know. The thought of brushing your pet’s teeth may make your eye twitch. But, 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 because it’s really no laughing matter.

Mouth + teeth + gums (can) = dental disease when left untreated. The consequences of neglect 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 be detrimental to the rest of the body, including internal organs, such as the heart, kidney and liver. Scary, right? But it doesn’t have to be.

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.

Special cat and dog toothbrushes are available at many pet stores and veterinary offices, as well as toothpaste formulated especially for cats and dogs in tasty flavors like seafood or poultry. Your minty fresh toothpaste is not safe for pets even though you might like a whiff of that menthol scent during 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 excited to get their teeth brushed. Everyone likes a fresh mouth, right?

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.

“Dental health is a very important component of maintaining our pets’ overall health and comfort,” said League Interim Chief Veterinarian Dr. Camila Monroe, DVM. “Dental disease results from bacteria and tartar build up on the teeth. If left untreated, the bacteria and tartar will spread below the gum line and into the tooth roots, causing infection and severe oral pain. Pets that do not receive regular dental care often need to have surgery to have their teeth removed in order to treat the infection and pain.”

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.

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