Sunday, February 1, 2009

February Is Pet Dental Health Month

Almost 80 percent of adults brush their teeth at least twice a day, according to the American Dental Association, but most completely ignore the dental health of their pets. February is National Pet Dental Health Month, sponsored in part by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

"More than 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the time they're three years old. This can lead to serious health problems," explained Dr. Brook Niemiec, a board certified specialist in veterinary dentistry. "Make sure every veterinary checkup includes a thorough inspection of your pet's teeth and gums, and a discussion on how to keep them healthy and clean between visits."

The AVMA offers some more tips and information on how to keep your pet's teeth healthy:
Look for signs of tooth decay and oral disease by inspecting your pet's teeth regularly. Bad breath, discoloration and tartar are all indications of problems that could lead to serious health risks with the potential for not only damaging teeth and gums but internal organs.
Regular visits to your veterinarian should include a complete checkup of your pet's teeth. Your veterinarian should clean plaque and tartar off your pet's teeth (under anesthesia) if necessary. When tartar—created by the mixture of food debris, saliva and bacteria in the mouth—is allowed to build up it can accumulate between teeth and gums causing tooth loss, and result in an infection that could enter the bloodstream and spread to the heart or other internal organs.

Scrub your cat's teeth daily or at least weekly with a moistened cotton gauze square. While most cats will not immediately accept a dental hygiene regimen, it can be successfully introduced with patience, particularly if you start when the cat is young. Start slowly using plenty of praise and treats. Begin scrubbing in short intervals, working up to about 15-20 seconds a side.

To minimize dental problems, feed your cat crunchy food only. The abrasive texture of kibble can help keep teeth clean, while soft food can cling to your pet's teeth and lead to decay. Also consider crunchy treats, which also help clean teeth.

Rope toys that cats can chew are not only immensely entertaining for your pet, but also keep teeth clean and breath smelling fresh.

For more information on pet dental health, visit the Pet Dental Web site at, and for an audio release on this the importance of pet dental health, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association Web site Audio Library at and click "Audio Releases" in the left column.

Adapted from the AVMA press release on Pet Dental Health Month 2009