Most of us are aware of the importance of regular dental cleanings and checkups to maintain healthy teeth. But many of us may not be aware of the role a healthy mouth plays in supporting our overall health. Regular brushing and flossing may in fact help prevent diseases that are seemingly unconnected to our mouths, such as endocarditis, an inflammation of the lining or valves of the heart.
Just as with humans, good oral health is critical in maintaining your pet’s overall health. In fact, it may be even more important, because according to many experts, gum disease is five times more prevalent in pets than in humans.
Major Conditions Caused by Poor Pet Dental Care
Here are just a few of the many conditions that can result from a lack of proper oral hygiene in your pet.
Periodontal disease affects the areas around your dog’s teeth, including the gums, soft tissues, and even the jawbone. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease by the time they are three years of age. Left untreated, this can lead to inflamed and bleeding gums, bad breath, and even tooth loss in severe cases. This, in turn, can diminish your pet’s appetite, leading to unhealthy weight loss.
Bacteria that originates from dental infections triggers the immune system, resulting in inflammation. The inflammatory response kills bacteria, but may also destroy healthy tissue in the process. The bacteria present in your pet’s mouth may enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, including the heart, kidneys and liver leading to infections.
According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), there is evidence that periodontal disease is linked to cardiopulmonary diseases like endocarditis. While there is no direct evidence that one causes the other, there is a high correlation between the two. The WSAVA says that the risk of endocarditis is about six times higher in dogs with stage three periodontal disease than for dogs without it.
This is a relatively uncommon occurrence, but a very serious one. It is most common in small dog breeds that have disproportionately large teeth. Their small jaws can be weakened by infections in the mouth, so even a relatively minor incident, such as jumping off a couch or wrestling with another dog, may be enough to break it.
Preventing Oral Disease in Your Pet
So what can you do to maintain your pet’s oral health? Here are several ways you can help your pet get and keep a healthy mouth.
GIVE YOUR PET DENTAL TREATS
There are many pet treat products on the market that clean teeth and freshen breath. Some types of dog dental treats can reduce plaque by nearly 70 percent. How can you find one that will work for your pet? The Veterinary Oral Health Council has a list of approved products for both dogs and cats. There are also chew toys made for the purpose of cleaning your pet’s teeth.
BRUSH YOUR PET’S TEETH
Just as with humans, brushing is one of the best ways of keeping your pet’s teeth clean. This may be challenging, especially with cats, but it can be done with a little perseverance. If you choose to use toothpaste, get one specifically made for pets. Many pet toothpastes come in meat flavors to make it more palatable for your pet. Always reward your pet with a healthy treat after a brushing.
GET YOUR PET CHECKED BY YOUR VETERINARIAN
The first step in maintaining good oral hygiene is to make pet dental care part of your dog or cat’s yearly checkup. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you if the tartar building up on your pet’s teeth is reaching an unhealthy level. If so, they will most likely recommend a cleaning, which your veterinarian can perform.
Treatment at your veterinary clinic is more comfortable and effective than at-home methods. Always performed under anesthesia, this will include removing visible tartar from the teeth and plaque and tartar underneath the gum line. Your vet will also check for any other abnormalities in the mouth and may remove any infected teeth.
If you have any questions about maintaining proper dental care for your pet, Diamond can help. We can evaluate your cat or dog, provide pet dental services and recommend the best food and treats to ensure your pet will have a healthy mouth now and for many years to come.