Dental disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed conditions in dogs and cats—and also one that surprises many pet owners. But, as annual examinations and vaccinations help prevent harmful illnesses, a combination of at-home and professional dental-care regimens can prevent dental disease in pets. Together, you and your veterinarian at Southwest Vet can combat this exceedingly common condition and keep your pet’s mouth disease-free. Here are five reasons why dental care is essential for pets. 

#1: Like people, pets develop dental plaque and tartar

When bacteria accumulate in the mouth, they feed off tiny food particles, and eventually create a gummy film on the tooth surface known as plaque. You may feel plaque on your teeth several hours after brushing, particularly first thing in the morning. Despite accumulating quickly, plaque can be easily removed with regular toothbrushing, but will eventually build up to create a thick, hard, calcified material known as tartar if routine brushing is neglected. Few people with diligent oral-hygiene habits will experience dental tartar, but it is extremely common in pets, and must be manually scaled off the tooth surface and underneath the gumline. Once tartar builds up under the gums, painful inflammation ensues, and dental disease progresses. What you see on the crown of your pet’s tooth is often the tip of the iceberg, and disease lurking below the gumline cannot be seen. At this point, professionals will need to remove stubborn tartar and address gingivitis.  

#2: Oral exams may reveal more than dental disease

While dental disease is the most common oral condition of pets, by far, other abnormalities can occur, including masses, broken or chipped teeth, fistulas (i.e., a hole in the gum from a tooth that fell out), inflammation, retained baby teeth, palate problems, or malocclusions (i.e., improper alignment of the upper and lower teeth). Many of these conditions can go undiagnosed without a proper oral examination, as many affected pets do not show any signs. 

#3: Pets are experts at hiding pain

Despite the pain of dental disease and other oral problems, many pets will continue to eat readily and behave normally, leaving pet owners shocked when they are told about their pet’s condition. Your veterinarian will fully examine your pet’s mouth during her annual visit, and can guide you on how to examine her mouth at home for tartar, inflammation, and other abnormalities. 

#4: Oral disease can cause more than serious dental-health problems in pets

Depending on the underlying cause, oral disease left untreated can cause a number of subsequent problems, such as bone loss, tooth-root infection, and a dangerous condition known as sepsis, which occurs when bacteria spread through the blood. Sepsis can lead to serious problems with the heart, liver, or kidneys. Dental disease may seem minor and painless, but it can have major implications for your pet’s overall health. 

#5: Preventing dental-disease in pets is cost-effective

Approximately 80% of cats and dogs over age 3 have some degree of dental disease, and many cases are so severe that they require substantial professional dental work. Not only will regular toothbrushing (i.e., at least three times per week) and professional dental cleanings keep your pet’s teeth healthy, but they also can prevent the development of serious oral problems, such as infection and bone loss, which can lead to expensive extractions and treatments. Preventing this common disease can help you save money in the long run. 

Southwest Vet is dedicated to providing high-quality dental care to our patients. That’s why we are proud to offer our clients $40 off all dental cleanings during February to honor National Pet Dental Health Month. Be sure to book your consultation soon.