Do your furry friends tend to show you how much they care with a sloppy - or sandpaper - lick? If you're running to rinse off every time your pet is showing affection, it might be the perfect reason to invest in their dental health. February is Pet Dental Health Month, and just as you need to keep up with regular oral health to avoid bad breath and maintain a healthy mouth, so does your four-legged friend.
Dog and cat breath can be avoided with regular dental care. Pet owners should get their animals used to the idea of brushing at an early age because it is much easier for them to get used to the practice. Good habits and veterinary-strength products will help pets fight gum disease and untreated plaque that causes bad breath. Although your main motivation for keeping your dog or cat's pearly whites clean and shiny may be so that you're not a victim of a nasty post-nap yawn, the bacteria that causes that bad breath could enter the blood stream and lead to heart disease.
Signs to look out for
The American Veterinary Medical Association, an organization dedicated to the art and science of veterinary medicine, encourages all pet owners to have their pet's oral health checked out every six months, but should continually keep an eye out for any warning signs that may cause gum disease, bad breath or lead to pain. According to the association, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show symptoms of oral disease by the age of three.
You'll want to keep a look out for a few key indicators that your pet is suffering from oral disease. The most obvious may be bad breath, but you need to decipher if this bad breath is caused by the food they are eating or if it could be caused by a greater issue. Discolored or loose teeth will be a major sign. You may notice your pet's teeth are covered in tartar when they yawn or eat. Your pet may also show discomfort when you touch them in the mouth area, and although some animals are always sensitive to being touched here, it may be cause for concern if they seem to shy away in pain.
Animals may also have a loss of appetite and show weight loss because they aren't able to eat without being in pain. If you notice they are bleeding from the mouth or drooling or dropping food while eating, they may have a dental disease.
"There are a lot of products available for home dental care," Dr. Penny Dye with Dakota Hills Veterinary Clinic told Black Hills, S.D. Fox affiliate KEVN. "I think it's important to realize that that's just part of the supportive ... dental care and all of it that owners can do that they find works best for their pet helps keep that pet's mouth healthy throughout the year or in between dental cleanings and so it's all encouraged to do, but certainly shouldn't be considered a replacement for that dental cleaning once every 6 to 12 months."
Veterinarians recommend that owners brush their pet's teeth once a day, but this can be challenging with a resistant pup. Make sure to brush as frequently as possible, and try to start when they are young. You'll want to purchase a tooth brush designed for dogs, and chew toys that help scrap away plaque and tartar.