Thursday, February 9, 2012
American Veterinary Medical Association names February as Pet Dental Health Month
Only 10% of pet owners care for their pet's teeth.
The Metroplex Animal Coalition sends this press release about pet dental health awareness:
Bad breath in dogs is often dismissed simply as "doggy breath." But in fact, it may be a sign of periodontal disease.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by three years of age. In addition to bad breath, other symptoms of dental problems include a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and mouth, red and swollen gums, a yellow-brown crust of tartar around the gum line, and pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth.
Preventing periodontal disease can result in longer, healthier lives for pets. That’s why the American Veterinary Medical Association has designated February as Pet Dental Health Month.
“Veterinarians are always encouraging pet owners to regularly brush their pet's teeth and schedule annual checkups,” said Jonnie England, Director of Animal Care for the Metroplex Animal Coalition. “Unfortunately, dental care is often ignored by owners.” England said that only about one in 10 owners makes sure their pets' teeth are cared for.
Although dogs and cats rarely get cavities, the plaque and tartar that do form can cause gingivitis and periodontal disease. This can lead to tooth decay, bleeding gums, and tooth loss. “As with people, the bacteria that cause this can travel through the bloodstream and eventually damage the heart and other organs,” said England.
Proper pet dental care begins with a trip to the veterinarian for an exam, which should be done on an annual basis. If there’s plaque or tartar buildup, a cleaning may be necessary.
England said that establishing a regular home dental program is the next step. "It may sound like a challenge, but it’s easier than you think," she said.
Introduce a tooth-brushing program gradually. England suggests purchasing poultry-flavored pet toothpaste and spreading some on your finger. “Rub your finger gently over and along your pet’s teeth and gums, taking care not to stick your finger in his mouth.”
Make the initial sessions short and positive. "Don’t over-restrain your pet, and hold a cat or small dog in your lap. Be sure to praise and reassure him throughout the process so it will be a pleasurable experience."
After a few finger rubbings, try it with a pet toothbrush. Full-size brushes are available, but England says it’s usually easier with a finger brush — a molded rubber sheath that fits over the index finger. “The bristles are soft and gentle on the gums, so your pet shouldn’t protest too much. Apply the flavored toothpaste, and brush away.”
A word of warning: Don’t use regular people toothpaste because it could upset the pet’s stomach.
“With annual checkups and a regular home dental-care program,” said England, “your pet should avoid painful and costly periodontal disease and live a longer, healthier life.”
Source: Metroplex Animal Coalition