It’s that time of year again: February is National Pet Dental Health Month! Did you know that periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition in both cats and dogs according the the American Veterinary Medical Association or AVMA. This condition is also completely preventable. Periodontal disease is inflammation or infection of the gums and is caused by accumulation of dental plaque. Clinical signs of dental disease can include bad breath, loss of appetite, dropping food, excessive drooling, bleeding gums, and loose or missing teeth. The dental plaque contains bacteria which can cause irritation to the gums. Over time, pets can accumulate more dental plaque and bacteria which could lead to bad breath, bleeding gums, severe infections, pain, and tooth or bone loss. The following chart describes the different stages of periodontal disease and clinical signs that occur during those stages.

To prevent the accumulation of the dental plaque, the teeth need to be cleaned regularly. Dental plaque can accumulate in matter of days; therefore, brushing daily is best. If brushing your pet’s teeth is not an option, there are many other products that help delay the progress of dental plaque. These products should be used daily to help reduce the build up of dental plaque. Luckily there are many great products available to owners including brushes and toothpaste, oral rinses, dental treats and diets.

Many owners ask what products are best for their pet’s dental health. The Veterinary Oral Health Council or VOHC endorses veterinary dental products that have been tested for their ability to reduce the accumulation of plaque and/or calculus.  Look for veterinary dental products with the VOHC seal of approval or follow the link to get a complete list of dog and cat veterinary dental products.

Additionally, even with daily brushing or dental care at home, most pets will eventually require professional dental cleanings. These professional cleanings are very similar to dental cleanings in their human counterparts. However, dogs and cats need to be anesthetized to perform a thorough dental cleaning and polishing, dental x-rays, as well as probing the gums to look for evidence of advance disease. The veterinarian can surgically extract any loose or fractured teeth identified during the dental procedure so patients do not have to return for an additional procedure.

If your pet is showing any signs of periodontal disease please schedule an appointment with your veterinarian today to discuss the next steps to improve pet dental health.

~ Becky Harvey DVM, MPH

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