Healthy mouth encourages healthy body

Cardiologists know that poor oral health can lead to heart disease and multiple organ failure. The same is true for our pets. 1 That’s why February is National Pet Dental Health Month and National Children’s Dental Health Month.

We feed our four-legged family members like we feed ourselves: flour, sweets and sugary substances. But we do not clean their teeth the way we clean our own. Wild animals eat meats and vegetation. Nothing they eat is processed, and they tear and gnaw with their teeth. Besides, indoor pets live longer than their outside counterparts, so they need their teeth longer.

Methods of promoting gum health
Dentists recommend a dental cleaning at 3 years, if not sooner. Consider that if a dog ages seven times faster than humans, and you wait until your dog is 3 to perform any dental hygiene, you  are waiting until the dog is 21! And if you wait until the 7-year mark, the poor pup or kitty is nearly 50!

Brush your pet’s teeth daily, or at least weekly. Use toothbrushes and toothpaste designed for pets. Human toothpaste can upset pets’ stomachs, and human toothbrushes are not shaped for pets’ mouths. Start in the back of the mouth and work toward the front. Do only as much as the pet allows and increase the length of time each brushing. Then follow with something the pet enjoys, such as  scratching the belly or the ears. Then you’ll have a more enjoyable vet visit.

Each annual check-up  offers more than necessary vaccines. Veterinarians should look for potential issues in the skin, muscles, skeleton , eyes and mouth. When they see tartar on the teeth, they know that bacteria has collected and hardened on the teeth, both above and below the gum line, which can lead to periodontal disease jaw and bone loss. 

Symptoms of gum disease
Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
and loose teeth are symptoms of advanced disease, which can develop into serious organ complications. Other symptoms are a swollen face, particularly under the eyes, which can indicate a root abscess. Sometimes pets stop eating or playing with chew toys because of tooth pain, and animals hide their pain, or perceived weakness. It’s part of their breeding to protect themselves from predators. We see this as being “grumpy” or “acting a little off”.  Any of these is reason to consult your veterinarian.

The number-one cause of cat deaths is kidney failure, or renal failure. Veterinary dentists and kidney specialists find a serious link between the instance of poor dental health and kidney disease.

“The toxins from periodontal disease are absorbed into the dog’s blood stream. As the kidneys, liver, and brain filter the blood, small infections occur causing permanent and at times fatal organ damage. After periodontal disease is treated, and the owners give proper home care, most dogs respond wonderfully due to the decreased pain and infection.”2 The same is true for cats.

Products to help
Start today in reducing the plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth. Get a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically made for pets. Ask your veterinarian about foods and chews that can help with dental hygiene. Most kibble and hard treats made of flour are not beneficial in reducing plaque and tartar. Call your veterinarian today for a dental check-up. Many are recognizing Pet Dental Health Month with specials through the end of February!


By Beth Crosby