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A chewy a day helps keep the plaque away

By Kathy Fallert

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With February being National Pet Dental Health Month, it is wise to keep in mind that dental disease is more than just cosmetic. If you find your furry friend has red gums, yellow teeth and stinky breath, it could be a sign of oral disease. If left untreated, oral disease can lead to serious impacts on your pet’s quality of life – including chronic pain.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some kind of oral disease by the age of 3. It is one of the most common problems faced by our four-legged pals. Take this month to check your pet’s oral health, and make sure you know how to care for their teeth. With regular oral health maintenance and check-ups, most problems can be avoided.

The warning signs of gum disease include bad breath, red and swollen gums, yellow-brown crusts of tartar along the gum lines and bleeding or pain when the gums or mouth are touched. Pets with developing gingivitis and periodontal diseases will often paw at their face or mouth, have excessive drool and may also show an unwillingness to eat harder foods. A soft-bristled toothbrush may be used to clean your pet’s teeth to remove any food particles or build-up of tartar and plaque. Be sure to use only toothpaste that is specially formulated for pets.

Your veterinarian may recommend a professional teeth cleaning for your dog or cat once or twice a year. This usually requires the use of general anesthesia, which does carry risks. During the procedure, your veterinarian will use instruments to scale and polish your pet’s teeth, removing tartar and plaque build-up that could otherwise lead to dental issues. In cases of serious oral disease, your vet may also recommend a tooth extraction.

To prevent oral disease in your pets, Dr. Alicia Hanson of Castle Pines Veterinary Hospital stated, “Brushing is best. But I realize that brushing your pet’s teeth every day isn’t realistic in everyone’s lives. The next best thing is chewing, and enzymatic chews are the most effective against plaque.” When plaque stays on teeth it hardens into tartar which makes it more difficult to get the teeth clean. That is what leads to tooth decay and gum disease.

Keeping on top of your pet’s dental health has lasting good effects and can actually extend their life. For more information about oral hygiene in pets and for recommended products, visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council website at www.vohc.org.

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