That's right. Your pet's mouth can affect his whole body, not just his mouth. And dental disease is more common than most people think!
Did you know that 80% of dogs over three years of age have some form of dental disease? Or that 70% of cats over three years of age suffer from dental disease? It's true. Dental disease is the most common form of illness currently diagnosed in dogs.
February is National Pet Dental Health Month. So, it's a good time to take action and start caring for your pet's teeth and mouth if you aren't already doing so.
Why worry about dental disease? Can it really make my pet sick?
Yes, it can. Dental disease can contribute to both kidney disease and heart disease for your pet. In addition, bad teeth and other dental issues can cause chronic ongoing pain for your pet. Your pet may respond with a lack of appetite, excessive drooling, weight loss and worse.
What can I do about dental disease?
Start with a visit to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can examine your pet's mouth and determine what course needs to be taken.
If your pet's mouth is already showing signs of dental disease, your veterinarian may recommend anesthetizing your pet for a complete oral examination and tooth cleaning. From there, a treatment plan can be formulated to correct any abnormalities found on the examination.
What about taking care of my pet's teeth at home? What can I do?
Home care is an important part of keeping your pet's mouth healthy. Brushing your pet's teeth is the gold standard when it comes to oral care. Ideally, your pet's teeth should be brushed daily.
Most pets will adapt to having their teeth brushed and will tolerate the process, especially if it is introduced early in life as a puppy or kitten. However, some pets will not. For those pets, other alternatives will have to be relied upon.
Dental diets can help keep your pet's mouth healthy. Especially useful are diets that contain polyphosphate microcrystals on the surface of the kibble that are released as the kibble is chewed to act on the whole mouth rather than simply acting on the surfaces of teeth used in chewing. Examples of polyphosphates used in foods include sodium hexametaphosphate and sodium tripolyphosphate. Both are naturally occurring minerals that are used as phosphate sources in food as well and both are safe for consumption.
Other options include chewies such as Greenies Dental Chews. These also can be relatively effective in reducing dental disease.
Chew toys which act as dentrifices and help remove plaque and massage the gums are also available and can be used. However, it is not advisable to allow your pet to chew on anything harder than the teeth. Doing so may result in broken teeth.
In addition, there are a number of oral gels and rinses that are available for dental care. These may be less effective than other options but are still better than using nothing at all.