Friday, January 29, 2010

February is Pet Dental Health Month

From the AVMA:

Schaumburg, IL
— It is estimated that 80 percent of people brush their teeth every day, but far fewer pet owners do the same for their pets. Pet Dental Health Month, celebrated every February, teaches pet owners proper dental hygiene is equally as important for their pets.

"Most people have no idea that dental health is so important to their pets, and that's why Pet Dental Health Month is such a great idea," explains Dr. Larry Corry, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "In fact, veterinarians report that periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed problem in dogs and cats. This can lead to painful infections of the mouth, and in severe cases these infections can spread and become life-threatening conditions. During Pet Dental Health Month, the AVMA is encouraging all dog and cat owners to regularly brush their pet's teeth and regularly see their veterinarian for checkups."

The AVMA, a sponsor of Pet Dental Health Month, offers an informative video giving step-by-step instructions on how to brush your pet's teeth. The Pet Dental Month Web site,, includes tips from a veterinary expert on pet dental health, Dr. Brook Niemiec.

"Periodontal disease, an infection of the gums, is incredibly common in pets, and it can be quite serious," explains Dr. Niemiec, a board certified veterinary dental specialist. "It's estimated that by the age of two, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease. Periodontal infections have been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other life threatening disorders. The best way to prevent periodontal disease is by regularly brushing your pet's teeth and by regularly visiting your veterinarian."

For more information, please visit, and to show off your pet's pearly whites upload their photos at the AVMA Flickr site Pearly White Pets.


Assessment of dental health is one of the most important things we do in our annual and semi-annual wellness exams of cats. Dental disease is probably the most common health condition I see in practice. The average cat needs its teeth cleaned about every three years, but I see cats who could have them cleaned three times a year and STILL not be trouble-free. On the other end of the spectrum, I see on rare occasion an elderly cat who has never had dental work because it has never needed it.

When we clean a cat's teeth, we do so under light anesthesia with injectable drugs. This process is extremely safe, and so we don't hesitate to do it except in terribly ill animals. The tiny risk of anesthesia is well worth it when you consider the serious risk of medical consequences from NOT addressing dental needs.

And speaking of consequences - most people are unaware that untreated dental disease such as calculus accumulation, periodontal disease, cervical line lesions, and broken teeth can lead to liver, kidney, and heart trouble. It's not a cosmetic issue in the least, cats not being known for their toothy grins.

VIN's VetPartner has an excellent page on feline dental disease here.

If you have been advised that your feline friend needs dental care, please call us to schedule an appointment. If your kitty hasn't been to a veterinarian in a long time and you have no idea what is going on inside his/her mouth, then you definitely need to schedule an examination.