Dental Care for Your Pets

by Barbara Murray
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Hercules smiles for the camera. Hercules' human is Carey Petrey.Has your dog or cat ever climbed in your lap and you notice a horrible odor coming from their mouth? If so, chances are they have a bad tooth or teeth in some cases. If you notice a scent coming from your pet’s mouth, it could be an indication of a serious health condition, such as kidney disease, periodontal disease or a painful inflammation of the gums, but dental issues should be the first suspect.

Not everyone can afford to have their pets teeth cleaned on a regular basis, but with February being National Pet Dental Health Month, I’d like to offer a few suggestions. These are not intended to take the place of very important dental care from your veterinarian.

As far as professional care, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends an annual dental checkup for your pet. Your vet can check teeth and gums for any sign of possible problems. If you notice anything unusual in between the yearly exams, be sure to notify your vet right away if possible.

Symptoms to be concerned about include a broken or loose tooth, bleeding from the mouth or gums, and bad breath. Changes in eating habits can also indicate dental problems.

According to the AVMA, periodontal disease is common in cats and dogs and many will show signs of early periodontal disease when examined. It’s important to begin preventive treatment as early as possible to prevent the disease from causing health issue with your pet’s kidneys or liver.

Periodontal disease begins with plaque that forms tartar. A professional cleaning goes below the gum line to remove tartar.

Some people brush their dog’s teeth with a pet toothbrush and toothpaste. This is the best way to prevent disease and can actually eliminate the need for a professional cleaning if done regularly. I’ve only been successful doing this regularly with very young pups. I give them a toothbrush to play with, and it becomes a common routine for them. However, stopping the play to get a little brushing done is somewhat difficult.

Dental toys and treats are also an option to help with oral health. However, be careful which ones you choose, and make sure to get the appropriate size for your pets, and never leave them unattended with any treats.

Some pets will allow the owner to do a simple removal of built-up tartar from their teeth. Also, use caution when doing this, so as not to injure the gums.

You can train many dogs to allow brushing and cleaning? With cats, it is a completely different story.

Do you know of a successful way to get a cat to cooperate with regular dental care? I’d appreciate any helpful suggestions.

Shapur poses for a photo.
Shapur hides his teeth while smiling. Shapur's human is Alyssa Underwood.

Odin smiles for the camera.
Odin smiling. Odin's human is Emmy Major.

I'd like to say a great big thank you to everyone who sent me photos of their smiling pets. We received about 300 photos and unfortunately could not use them all at this time. The photo at above right is of Hercules smiliing. Hercules' human is Carey Petrey.