Most pet owners do everything they can to protect the well-being of their dogs and cats, but one thing they often neglect to check is their teeth. As pets grow older, their bad breath is considered more of an annoyance than a sign their health is at risk. However, the bacteria that lingers in the mouths of our furry friends can circulate through their bloodstream, endangering their heart, kidneys, and liver.
“As veterinarians, we often see cases of organ infection and failure that can be tracked back to a pet’s rotten teeth and inflamed gums,” said Dr. Jennifer Davis of Hawthorne Animal Hospital in Glen Carbon, Ill. “Protecting our pet’s oral health each day takes less than a minute and can possibly help them live a longer life, but according to studies, less than seven percent of owners regulary brush their pet’s teeth.”
Daily Brushing and Yearly Exams – Two Ways to Safeguard Your Pet’s Smile
During National Pet Dental Month this February, the veterinarians at Hawthorne recommend that pet owners make their dog’s or cat’s oral health a priority. As soon as a pet’s adult teeth come in, owners should brush them daily with a pet-specific toothbrush and toothpaste (never use human toothpaste as many contain fluoride and/or xylitol, which can be toxic to pets if swallowed). Dental chew toys and treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) can help remove tartar and plaque between brushings.
In addition, every pet should receive a dental exam and cleaning at a veterinarian’s office once a year. At Hawthorne, all exams are done under anesthesia to provide a stress-free experience for patients, allowing the dental team to remove plaque buildup below the gum line, examine the gums, tongue, and palette to look for signs of tumors or abscesses, extract any infected teeth to eliminate pain, and provide a thorough cleaning and polishing. Digital x-rays of each tooth are also performed so veterinarians can detect any hidden problems, from infected roots to hairline haw fractures.
Explained Dr. Davis, “Yearly exams are not only essential to maintain your pet’s healthy teeth and gums, but may help prevent more serious dental and medical problems down the road that can be expensive to treat.”
If you have questions about your pet’s oral health or would like to schedule their dental exam and cleaning, contact Hawthorne Animal Hospital at 618-288-3971.