February is National Pet Dental Health Month

doberman_teethbrushingThis February, the American Veterinary Medical Association wants pet owners to be aware of how important good oral health is to their pet’s overall well-being by celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month. Dogs, cats, rabbits and even guinea pigs can suffer from the same teeth and gum diseases human do–from bad breath and gingivitis to serious complications precipitated by periodontitis.

What is Plaque? Plaque mixes with saliva and quickly hardens into tartar, the primary cause of lost teeth, gum disease and infection in pets. Tartar is highly acidic, dissolves dental enamel and weakens gum integrity. Pockets existing at the gum line become infected from untreated tartar build-up which ultimately causes teeth to loosen and fall out. Dogs and cats suffering from lost teeth and periodontitis often have difficulty eating or will simply refuse to eat because of pain and inflammation.

Pet Dental Health Should be a Daily Concern

In addition to having pets seen by a veterinarian every year for a complete check-up, pet owners should inspect their pet’s teeth regularly for signs of yellowing and decay. Brushing your pet’s teeth a least once a week is recommended for preventing build-up of plaque and tartar. Once your pet’s teeth exhibit yellow staining near the gumline, brushing won’t be able to remove the stains. Instead, stains will need removed by a veterinarian.

Dipping a toothbrush into hydrogen peroxide and brushing your pet’s teeth for about one minute is the suggested method for cleaning teeth. Also, making sure your pet receives enough crunchy food every day is strongly recommended, since dry food does not stick to teeth like canned food and helps scrape away excess plaque. Dental-cleaning toys for dogs are also available that are made of safe nylon and polyurethane for promoting clean teeth and jaw health.

Periodontal Disease in Cats and Dogs

National Pet Dental Health Month also wants to bring attention to periodontitis, the most common oral health disease seen by veterinarians. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, signs that your pet may be suffering from periodontitis include gum inflammation (redness, swelling and bleeding); dark yellow or brown staining at the gumline; loosened teeth and tooth loss. If left untreated, bacteria responsible for periodontitis may infiltrate the jawbone and eventually the animal’s bloodstream, causing serious infection and deterioration of the jawbone. In fact, examination of pets with periodontitis has discovered the disease actually causes microscopic changes in the kidneys, liver and heart.

Keep Your Pet’s Pearly Whites Gleaming!

The Veterinary Medical & Surgical Hospital of Topeka wants to see your pet during National Pet Dental Health Month so we can ensure your pet enjoys the health benefits of strong teeth and gums. You can also learn more about National Pet Dental Health Month by reading the American Veterinary Medical Association’s press release to find out how you can help spread awareness of this important aspect of your beloved companion’s well-being.

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