BY DR. TRACY ACOSTA
The goal is to educate pet owners and their communities on the importance of pet oral health and regular veterinary dental checkups. Periodontal disease is the No. 1 diagnosed problem in dogs and cats over the age of 3. Problems begin when food particles and bacteria build up in the mouth, forming plaque and tartar that cause gingivitis and severe periodontal disease. The disease can result in a host of problems, including tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums, and in severe cases, tooth loss. Bacteria can even enter the bloodstream and damage the heart, liver, kidney and lungs. It is imperative that pet owners and veterinarians take every step of prevention and diagnose the disease as soon as possible. Many pet owners say they have never thought to look in their pet's mouth, even when the odor is so bad that no one can stand to be close to the animal. Warning signs pet owners can check for besides bad breath include tartar buildup; inflamed or bleeding gums; a change in eating or chewing habits; difficulty with eating, such as food falling from the mouth; pawing at the face or mouth; and depression. If you see any signs, take your pet to the veterinarian. Remember, your pet can suffer discomfort or pain when oral disease becomes advanced and most people can relate to the misery. The American Veterinary Dental Society recommends that pet owners follow three basic steps:
Take your pet to the veterinarian for a dental exam. Each year, as part of a thorough physical exam, your veterinarian will check the teeth and gums. If plaque and tartar buildup is evident, your veterinarian will likely recommend a professional dental cleaning.
Start a home care dental routine. An in-home regimen may include regular tooth brushing and feeding specially formulated foods that have been proven to be effective in combating plaque and tartar buildup. For example, Hill's Prescription Diet can reduce plaque buildup in both dogs and cats. This is great news for all of you who face the reality that brushing your pet's teeth may not be the easiest task. Other options include providing special toys and chews, and using oral sprays.
Monitor your pet's oral health by scheduling checkups with your veterinarian. An annual exam is important. Regular professional dental cleanings should be done when recommended by your veterinarian. Remember that periodontal disease can lead to poor general overall health. Despite all efforts by you at home to keep your pet's teeth clean and healthy, eventually almost all pets will require a professional cleaning. How often depends a lot on the individual pet.
Dr. Tracy Acosta 228-385-7611