February is National Pet Dental Heath Month. Do your pet a favor and take a few seconds to take a peek at his or her teeth – a GOOD peek. You might be surprised at what you find.

According to many veterinarians, periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in dogs and cats. “By the age of just three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of periodontal disease.”

There’s a double whammy with dental disease – not only is it pervasive, it’s sneaky. Sometimes the signs are obvious – painful eating, bad breath, obvious tartar and plaque accumulation, but most of the time that is not the case. It takes a thorough physical examination and sometimes even sedation to truly understand the state of your pet’s mouth.

Here are three things to do in order to see if your pet is one of the 70% to 80% with some form of dental disease:

1. Look at their mouth while they are at rest. How do the teeth look? Are the gums pink or red and inflamed? Is there discoloration or bad breath?

2. Lift up the lip on the side of the mouth and get a look at those molars in the back. This is where the real junky stuff likes to hang out. You may get a surprise at how nice a mouth can look up by the incisors and still be a disaster in the back. Are there retained baby teeth, fractured teeth or missing teeth?

3. Have your pet examined yearly by your Rexburg veterinarian. He is trained to recognize the earlier signs of disease before they become a major issue. This routine check can be done when your pet receives its yearly vaccinations. It’s important.

Our feline friends are often neglected in the dental category, which is a shame since they are especially susceptible to painful oral diseases. Your veterinarian can instruct you in the proper way to brush and care for your pet’s teeth – just ask him! (See our website for a short video on how to brush your pets teeth.)
Above all, don’t be afraid to have your pet’s teeth cleaned regularly and early. Preventive maintenance is better for your pet (and your wallet!) than dealing with the abscesses, extractions, discomfort, and systemic disease that eventually result from a poorly maintained mouth. There are toothbrushes and paste, food diets and treats that help with dental maintenance, just ask your vet for his recommendations. Remember, while February is National Pet Dental Health Month, dental health should be a daily ritual for pet owners all year long.

For more information about pet’s dental health, feel free to contact one of our Rexburg veterinarians today!

Contributions to this article came from AVMA and Dr. J. Vogelsang.

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