The month of February is designated as Pet Dental Health Month. The health of our pet’s mouths is something that we may not spend a lot of time thinking about. Unfortunately, if neglected, it is likely that our pets will develop periodontal disease, which afflicts an estimated 80%+ of all dogs and cats. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) describes periodontal disease as “the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs even though it’s completely preventable.”
Pet Dental Health Month is for prevention
This awareness campaign is meant to shine a spotlight on the oral care that our dogs and cats need! Just like us, pets need their teeth brushed and to get regular professional cleanings. But many pet owners, even though they’re taking care of other preventives—vaccines, year-round heartworm and flea & tick meds—just don’t consider mouth care to be a priority. It’s easy to underestimate how quickly dental disease can develop.
Symptoms of periodontal disease
Periodontal disease causes inflammation and infection. The bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream, potentially damaging the kidneys and liver and leading to heart failure.
Stage I Gingivitis: The gum is inflamed and swollen and plaque covers the teeth. Treatment can reverse the condition.
Stage II Early Periodontitis: The entire attached gum is inflamed and swollen. The pet’s mouth is painful and bad breath is noticeable. Professional treatment and home dental care can prevent this from becoming irreversible.
Stage III Moderate Periodontitis: Infection and calcuclus are destroying the gum, which is bright red and may be bleeding. The pet’s mouth is sore enough to affect eating and behavior. This is the tipping point where periodontitis has really taken hold and may be irreversible.
Stage IV Advanced Periodontitis: Bacteria may be spreading in the bloodstream throughout the body, possibly damaging the kidneys, liver and heart.
Why frequent checkups and professional cleaning is important
We recommend annual checkups for dogs and cats. Pets will sometimes let their owners know that something is wrong, but they frequently don’t. An exam with a doctor can reveal that a problem is developing or has developed, and allow us to work to remedy it. Over the years, we have removed bones, slivers from sticks and all manner of debris, and of course dead teeth, from dog’s mouths. Finding these things before they become serious infections can prevent a lot of discomfort and potentially save your dog’s life.
We once removed 13 teeth from the mouth of a cat who had extensive decay of the gums. Regular checkups and cleaning could’ve prevented the problem from every becoming so bad.
Many people are concerned about the cost of dental cleanings, which is understandable. But consider that the cost of a dental is much more affordable than the cost of more serious dental care, or of treating the diseases that can develop due to improper dental care.
Links for further reading about good pet dental health
Caring for your pet’s teeth at home—We’ve talked a lot about why your pets should have their teeth professionally cleaned. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to assist them with cleaning daily! Here are some things you should have at home to keep your pet’s teeth clean and breath smelling great, between cleanings.
Dogs and cats need their teeth cleaned, too!—Signs of dental disease and addressing concerns about anesthesia and tooth loss/extraction.
What have you done for me lately?—The importance of prevention, why just brushing teeth isn’t enough, and an infographic on why your pet needs dental care.
A typical dental procedure at AAAH—Video of a dental and a picture-by-picture walkthrough of a dental cleaning.
What is a dental?—A description of how we grade the condition of a patient’s teeth, determine if any extractions are necessary, and the ten-step process of a pet dental cleaning under anesthetic.
We hope you and your pets have a happy, healthy Pet Dental Health Month!