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Healthy Paws: 7 Things to Know About Your Pet’s Dental Health

Healthy Paws

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a new column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

You might not know it, but February is National Pet Dental Health Month.

Now, this may sound like just a clever marketing ploy to get your pet into his or her veterinarian, but there actually is quite a bit to be gained by working with your vet to keep up with your pet’s dental health, as well as instituting regular dental home care for your pets.

In addition to reducing the time needed between professional dental procedures and cleanings, regular at-home dental care can also help improve systemic health, decrease bone loss — which can eventually lead to mobility and loss of teeth — and even improve breath (important for when you get a big slobbery kiss from your pooch!).

Now, as the parents of toddlers ourselves, we realize that this may be asking a lot (teeth brushing is admittedly often a battle in our house), but we hope the following will encourage you to take a second look at your pet’s mouth.

  1. Dental disease is undoubtedly one of the most common diseases veterinarians diagnose and treat. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, approximately 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats will have some degree of oral disease by the age of 3.
  2. In the majority of cases, dental disease is a condition where “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Small preventative measures such as regular brushing can significantly slow the progression of tartar accumulation and subsequent periodontal disease. While daily brushing is by far the ideal, even brushing every 72 hours will make a significant difference in the amount of tartar accumulation on your pet’s teeth. Every three days is the minimum frequency recommended as beyond that the plaque will already have hardened into tartar, which cannot be removed via brushing.
  3. Most dogs, and even cats, can learn to love (or at least tolerate) brushing — check out the video link here for instructions on how to brush your pet’s teeth.
  4. While the jury is still out on exactly how the low-grade infection associated with periodontal disease affects our pets systemically, in people there are consistent correlations between periodontal disease and systemic diseases such as diabetes, cardiac, and kidney disease, likely related to the chronic inflammation and infection originating from the mouth.
  5. If brushing is absolutely out of the question, there are other options to help decrease the plaque and subsequent tartar buildup in your pet’s mouth. Look for products that carry the VOHC — Veterinary Oral Health Council — seal of approval, such as CET products, Greenies, or antiplaque water additives. Most of these products need to be used on a daily basis to make an appreciable difference.
  6. Routine brushing and home care can reduce the chances of needing aggressive or emergency dental care, such as tooth extractions and root canals for problems such as severe gingival infections or tooth root abscesses.
  7. And, last but not least, maybe seeing you brush the family cat or dog’s teeth will encourage that toddler to brush their own teeth.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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