Did you know that dental health affects the overall well-being of your pet, not just his teeth and gums? A healthy set of teeth enables chewing, which aids in proper digestion by allowing enzymes to break down food. Poor dental health causes bad breath, noticeable plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth root abscesses which make life miserable for your pet, and can create serious health risks. Left unattended, plaque can turn into cement-like calculus. Bad hygiene can result in inflamed gums which can cause bacterial infections affecting organs such as the heart and kidneys, and in extreme cases can even result in death. Although cats and small dogs are more prone to dental issues, there are some easy steps to promote dental health for any pet.
Like Children, Start Young
One of the best preventive measures starts with puppy or kitten training. Teach your young pet to allow you to open their mouth and examine their teeth. It’s important to be able to check your pet’s mouth on a regular basis since the early signs of periodontitis are often not very obvious. You should also have your veterinarian check your pet’s mouth on a regular basis to make sure you nip any problems in the bud. Early training will also help prepare your pet to accept teeth brushing, which should start as young as possible using a pet toothbrush and toothpaste. Ask your veterinarian to show you how this is done.
Regular Cleaning and Checkups
If your pet does develop tartar, tooth rot or gum disease, he or she may need to undergo a cleaning which is usually done under a general anesthetic by your veterinarian. February is considered dental health month for pets and often veterinarians will run special promotions during this month to encourage proper examination, care and remediation for dental issues. Often a cleaning is all that is required but sometimes extractions are also needed if some of the teeth are beyond saving.
Watch for Subtle Symptoms
Sometimes oral health issue symptoms are more subtle. If your pet displays a preference for soft food, is eating on one side, or yelps when chewing bones or toys, have your veterinarian check his mouth to identify the problem. Tooth pain can cause behavioural changes in your pet, too. If you’ve ever had a toothache yourself, you know how painful it is, so have the problem seen to as soon as you notice the signs.
Choose a Diet that Promotes Dental Health
Some pet foods use ingredients that promote dental health by inhibiting tartar formation. Specific fibre structures can help “scrub” the teeth, reducing the time between dental cleanings. Foods may also contain an ingredient that binds calcium to prevent tartar build-up. Some toys help improve dental health by encouraging crunching and chewing. As well, there are products specifically designed for dental health and approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
Dental health and preventative care are as important for your pet as they are for you, so keep an eye on those pearly whites for any early signs of trouble. Your pet will thank you for it.
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