winter fresh breath

Does your pet have breath not even Cupid could love? Get his teeth in top condition for Valentine’s Day kisses! Periodontal disease is the most common clinical condition veterinarians see in dogs and cats, and most pets have some degree of the disease by the age of 3. Early on, you may see subtle signs, like reddened gums or less-than-fresh breath, but as the disease progresses, so do its symptoms.

Signs of gum disease include:

  • tartar buildup/browning teeth
  • loose teeth
  • bleeding from the gums
  • decreased appetite
  • weight loss
  • dropping food
  • really (really!) terrible breath

When bacteria-rich tartar builds up along your pet’s diseased gum line, bacteria easily enters the bloodstream. As it circulates through the body, it can wreak havoc on your pet’s heart, kidneys and lungs. A chronically infected mouth also leads to decreased energy in your pet, and it makes getting a handle on other medical conditions (like diabetes) harder to achieve.

getting checked

Your veterinarian should be checking your pet’s teeth at her yearly visit, but if you suspect something sooner, schedule a special appointment. It is likely that at some point in your pet’s life, your veterinarian will recommend a comprehensive dental assessment and cleaning. Just as you have your teeth cleaned twice a year, your pet should have regular dental maintenance as well.

Your pet will require anesthesia for her dental procedure. Removing tartar from the teeth is only a fraction of what occurs, and anesthesia guarantees that your pet remains pain-free during her procedure and that your veterinarian can perform a thorough dental cleaning both above and below the gumline. Dental X-rays may be required to assess your pet’s teeth below the gums.

keeping clean

Once your pet is back home with a sparkling mouth, do your best to maintain it. Daily brushing is best, and there are a variety of brushes and pet-specific toothpastes on the market. While your pet may balk at first, rest assured that with a little time and patience, most pets will eventually accept your brushing efforts.

Enzymatic chews and treats are another way to help keep tartar-causing bacteria at bay. Finally, if your pet is prone to dental disease (as some breeds are), consider a prescription diet specific to dental health. Your pet’s dental health is about more than a pretty smile and fresh breath — it’s about living a long, healthy life full of slobbery kisses.