You may overlook your dog’s smelly breath, unless you spot their discomfort, since they cannot tell you how their mouth feels. Dental disease is one of the most common issues that affects petsmore than 70% of pets have some form of dental disease by age 3.  February is dental health month, and since periodontal disease can be reversible with routine dental care (i.e., at-home toothbrushing and professional dental cleanings), our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team wants to see you this month, and help ensure your pet is protected. 

The same way you would not neglect your pet’s nutrition, exercise, and grooming, because they are important for their overall wellbeing, you must add dental hygiene to that list. Below are five ways routine dental care can improve your pet’s life.

#1: Improved human-animal bond

If your pet’s kisses are smelly, you probably avoid being close. Healthy mouths do not have an odor, and stinky breath is the first sign of periodontal concerns. If your pet has puffy or red gums, yellow or brown tartar on their gum line, hesitancy to chew, or increased drooling, these are more signs pointing to an underlying health issue. Halitosis happens when food particles decompose in periodontal pockets, and slimy bacteria, from that brown or yellow plaque build-up, harden to tartar in only a few days. Not only will you naturally avoid your pet’s close affection, but your pet also will experience other painful issues that affect their happiness.

#2: Decreased periodontitis risk

A professional dental cleaning begins with bloodwork to assess the safe anesthesia level for your pet, followed by an oral exam, and X-rays to identify concerns below your pet’s gum line. The same way your dentist performs a professional scaling on your teeth, our veterinarian will remove your pet’s plaque and tartar buildup, and then polish their teeth to prevent further buildup. 

Plaque buildup in your pet’s oral cavities allows bacteria to spread around the gum, tooth roots, tissue, and bone surrounding the teeth, causing infection, tooth loss, and other serious problems. With routine dental examinations, X-rays, and cleanings, your veterinarian can see the bacteria that is beyond the naked eye, track your pet’s periodontal risks, and remove bacteria with specialized instruments while your pet is anesthetized and feeling no pain or discomfort. Review these visual stages of periodontal disease from the American Veterinary Dental College

#3: Limited plaque build-up

It is best to remove plaque before it hardens to tartar by brushing your pet’s teeth daily. If you have trained your puppy to expect daily dental hygiene, then good for you both! Your adult dog can also learn to like their teeth being brushed, but you may need to try various oral hygiene products along the way. The Veterinary Oral Health Council provides a list of approved water additives, oral wipes, rinses, and sprays with anti-plaque and cleaning properties that promote dental health, as well as dental chews and treats that help scrape off plaque. Never use human toothpaste, which contains harmful ingredients, such as xylitol, that are toxic to pets. Ensure the toothbrush is the right size for your pet—a child’s toothbrush usually is best—and that dental chews or treats are not so hard that they threaten a tooth fracture, or too large for your pet’s mouth and they could choke. Our veterinarian can recommend the best veterinary toothpaste and dental kibble options for your pet. Veterinary toothpastes come in a variety of flavors that dogs love.

#4: Less pain and discomfort

Your pet may finish the food in their bowl, yet still be suffering from periodontal disease. Pets are expert at hiding their pain, and may swallow their food whole because of dental pain.  Knowing the signs is key, because your pet cannot verbalize that they are suffering from sore gums, loose teeth, abscesses, or an infection. Signs include:

  • Bad breath
  • Preference for wet food
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Teeth chattering
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Avoiding their head being touched

#5: A longer lifespan

Routine dental care can not only increase your pet’s quality of life, but also extend their life. The bacteria in plaque and tartar can easily enter their bloodstream and circulate throughout their body, causing inflammation and infection, and affecting major organs, including the heart, kidneys, and liver. These issues all have the potential to lead to a poor quality of life and a shortened life span. 

Regular, complete, veterinary oral check-ups and cleanings can help ensure your pet’s dental problems are diagnosed and treated before they cause serious issues, and must be included in your pet’s overall care. Our veterinary team generally recommends annual visits, but that depends on your dog’s breed and specific needs. Dental health month is the perfect time to schedule your pet’s dental evaluation. Call us at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital