Pet Dental Health

Feb 16, 2019

Yes - this dog is actually smiling!
Credit Noël Zia Lee [Flickr]

Some dogs, especially certain breeds (like Golden Retrievers) naturally look like they are smiling.  But almost all dogs have the ability to smile.  I had a Boston Terrier that would raise his upper lip all the way around in his imitation of the smiles he saw on our faces.

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If your pet had dental disease, would you know it? Most dental disease in pets is below the gum line where you can’t see it. So how can you tell if your best friend has problems with its teeth?

The truth is that 70% of cats, and 80% of dogs, have some form of periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. That “doggy” breath, or those discolored teeth, could be an indication of dental problems.

Without regular dental care, plaque forms on teeth, which could lead to the formation of bacteria in the mouth. Your furry friend might develop an oral infection which can cause severe pain. Pets naturally try to hide it when they are in pain, so they suffer in silence. Dental disease can result in loose teeth, poor appetite, even weight loss. Left untreated, it can affect your animal’s heart, kidneys and liver.

So how do you protect your pet from dental problems? The first step is to have your veterinarian do a dental checkup on your pet at least once a year. It may be necessary to have your dog or cat’s teeth cleaned much the same way your dentist cleans your teeth, by scraping away any plaque that has built up around and under the gums. For pets, that usually means general anesthesia because they aren’t likely to sit still and “open wide”.

Brushing your pet’s teeth will also help maintain good dental health. Start gradually, dipping your finger in something tasty like beef broth for a dog or tuna juice for a cat, and gently rub your finger over the outside of the animal’s teeth. As your pet gets used to the idea you can use a piece of gauze around your finger to help scrub and clean a little better. Eventually you may switch to a special toothbrush designed for pets. If you want to use toothpaste, get one made for a dog or cat, because human toothpaste could make your pet sick.

February is Pet Dental Health Month, a good reminder to talk to your veterinarian about keeping your best friend’s teeth clean and healthy. That’s something we can all smile about, when we’re speaking of pets.

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