Happy Pet Dental Health Month!

You have just come home on Friday afternoon from a long day and long week at work. Chip, your best Chocolate Lab buddy is enthusiastically there to greet you. “Come here, boy” as you pat your thigh. He runs over, you bend down and he tries to give you a big slobbering “kiss.”  As you are almost knocked over by the oral stench you say, “Wow, Chip your breath is horrible, what did you get into?” You’re thinking, this defines dog breath. But as you look closer to see if there is something rotting in Chip’s mouth. You notice a lot of brown, slimy “stuff” on his teeth and his gums are red. In fact, it looks like in some areas the gums are bleeding!

This is not an uncommon scenario with many pet owners. The breed may be different, but the outcome is the same: bad smelling breath or halitosis – sometimes referred to as that “get away from me before I vomit smell.”

Since February is Pet Dental Health Month, I’ve put a few posts together to help you, dedicated pet owners, understand just how important this part of your pet’s health is…and just how easy it can be to care for their mouths and teeth (and get rid of that rank smell!)

Dental disease is one of the most common diseases we see in veterinary practices. Approximately 80-85% of dogs and cats by the age of three will have significant enough dental disease to warrant their first visit to the doggy or kitty hygienist (also known as their veterinarian) to have their teeth cleaned.

Oral hygiene and health is not only very important for your pet’s local (oral) health, but also their overall health status. In fact, some studies have shown that keeping your pet’s mouth healthy may actually increase their life expectancy by some 1-2 years. Poor oral health can also lead to other organ disease such as kidney and heart disease. The bacteria that are in the mouth build up and get into the bloodstream via the gums and put extra work load on the kidneys to filter these out, and these same bacteria can set up house-keeping on the heart valves and lead to a condition called valvular endocarditis.

But DON’T WAIT until your pet is three years of age to start preventative oral hygiene!

You should start early when you pet is a puppy or a kitten as part of their training program. Lift their lips and message their gums with your fingers initially. Simply get them used to you being in their mouth on your terms. This routine should be done on a daily basis just as your own daily oral hygiene.

You can then graduate to introducing specially formulated pet toothpaste (known as dentifrices to veterinarians) such as SENTRY Petrodex Poultry Fresh Mint Dual Toothpaste for Dogs on your finger to get them used to the taste. Once this is tolerated then you can initiate brushing with a toothbrush designed for a pet’s mouth, like SENTRY Petrodex Dual Ended 360 Brush, followed by adding the toothpaste to the brush. Take your time and make it fun. It may take several days or weeks to establish this home care routine.

Some pets actually look forward to the attention. There are also specially formulated pet dental treats that are simple to use and pets love. However, just as with humans, your pet’s teeth should still be brushed on at least a once daily basis. Also be sure to have their mouths examined at least once a year by your veterinarian to determine if they need a professional cleaning.

The bottom line is this: oral hygiene is vitally important for your pet’s well-being and overall health status.

Don’t have to shy away from your pet’s affection because of breath that could make an onion cry and your eyes water. By being a part of your pet’s oral hygiene program, you will build closer bonds with your pet and keep them healthy longer.

Show of your dog’s winning smile by entering into the Petrodex Superstars Smiles Photo Contest going on the entire month of February in honor of Pet Dental Month. You could win a FREE Canon Digital Rebel Camera Kit.

Just visit the Pet Health Central Facebook page for more details. Good luck!

-Photo Credit: Feature image from flickr by OakleyOriginals

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