February is National Pet Dental Health Month. This is a time to focus on the health of your pet’s teeth, as over 80% of pets will have some form of dental disease by the time they are three years old. Although it may be hard for us to tell if our pet is experiencing discomfort, there are some clear signs that they may be in pain. Some symptoms like oral bleeding or excessive drooling can indicate serious dental problems.
Dental health is just as important in pets as it is in humans. Pets are known to have dental issues that are often unnoticed by their owners, which can cause poor nutrition, weight loss, infections, and other medical problems. In dogs and cats, the most common dental problem is plaque, a sticky film of bacteria on teeth that can lead to gum disease, bad breath and Periodontal Disease which consists of four stages.
Regular removal of dental plaque prevents the development of tartar, gingivitis and periodontal disease. This may be accomplished by meticulously brushing the animal’s teeth on a regular basis (at least 3 times per week). Although this is the most effective way to prevent periodontal disease, few pet owners are willing or able to regularly brush their pet’s teeth. Alternative ways to reduce the formation of dental plaque and tartar include:
- Dry diets, as opposed to moist/canned or semi-moist diets, which help remove plaque during chewing;
- Rawhide or other similar chew-type products that require significant chewing;
- Diets or treats that contain additives that have been clinically proven to reduce the formation of plaque and/or tartar.
It is important for both people and pets to take extra care in keeping teeth healthy. This month should be a reminder that oral health is not just about brushing your teeth, but also about taking care of your pet’s teeth. If you think your pet may have dental issues, it is important to discuss this with your veterinarian and create a dental plan that’s best suited for your pet! When shopping for dental products for your pet, it is always important to look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Approval.