February 2011

February is National Pet Dental Month, which makes it a great time to check up on your pets’ teeth, especially if it’s been a while or you haven’t done it in the past. Problems in their mouth can lead to serious health problems in the future. Fortunately, these can be prevented with some good old-fashioned dental care, like regular dental exams and tooth brushing.


The Ins and Outs of Dental Health


Food and plaque can build up on your pets’ teeth, much like your own.

If it lingers there, it can cause bad breath, gingivitis, receding gums, loss of teeth, damage to the tongue and palate, and oral infections. Some of these problems can make it hard for your pets to chew and eat, and they can cause more complications down the road.

To help avoid these issues, bring your pets to the veterinarian at least once a year for a dental exam. The veterinarian will examine your pet's mouth inside and out, and may perform a professional cleaning. This can include anesthesia, X-rays, and ultrasonic teeth scaling. The cost of the exam can vary depending on the health of your pet’s teeth and gums. Our Level 4 coverage includes a yearly dental exam and cleaning.


5 Tips to Keep Your Pets Smiling

Here are some at-home suggestions for monitoring your pets’ dental health in between veterinary visits from our friends at the ASPCA.®

  1. The sniff test. Take a whiff of your cat’s or dog’s breath. It probably won’t smell fresh and lovely, but it shouldn’t smell foul or offensive, either. If you cringe at the scent, you should visit your veterinarian to make sure your pet isn’t suffering from digestive issues or gum disease.

  2. Get a good look. Pets may hide pain and discomfort, so it’s important to check their mouths regularly. Face your pet towards you, and gently lift his or her lips. Look around for inflammation, discoloration, ulcers, or loose teeth. If you see something that doesn’t look right, contact your veterinarian.

  3. Brush regularly. Brushing your pets’ teeth on an ongoing basis may sound like a daunting task, but it’s an inexpensive way to avoid potentially serious health problems in the future. Read our tips below to help make brushing a little easier on both of you.

  4. Check their diet. The food your pets eat can impact dental health. Crunchy pet food or a combination of dry and wet food can keep their mouths cleaner than soft food, which tends to stick more. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a pet food that’s good for teeth.

  5. Offer chew toys. Pet toys made for chewing can perform double duty by satisfying your pets’ natural urge to chomp and by promoting dental health. Chewing massages the gums and can remove soft tartar. But be careful not to let your pets gnaw on hard toys that can injure their mouth or fracture teeth.


Pet Dental Fact


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) estimates that more than 80% percent of dogs and 70% of cats have oral disease by the time they’re 3. *


Brush Those Pearly Whites

The ASPCA recommends you brush your pets’ teeth ideally once a day or at least several times a week. These pointers can help you get started.

  • Introduce your pet to the idea slowly. Start by simply massaging the gums gently with your finger or a cotton swab.

  • After a few massages, let your pet taste the toothpaste by dabbing it on the lips. Use toothpaste made for cats or dogs, since people paste can be harmful to pets.

  • Next, get your pet used to the toothbrush. Choose a toothbrush designed for pets, or buy one you can wear on your finger, if you prefer.

  • Finally, put some of the paste on the toothbrush, and brush using a circular motion at a 45 degree angle to the gum line.

Your pets may not be the best patients at first, but they’ll probably get used to the idea over time, and maybe even enjoy it! Try to make teeth cleaning a fun activity with lots of praise, attention, and affection.


Valentine’s Day brings thoughts of true love, which is what the ASPCA would like to help find between pets and potential adopters. To that end, they’ve developed a unique research-based program called Meet Your Match.

With Meet Your Match, shelters evaluate pets for distinct “canine- alities” or “feline-alities” and assign them one of nine fun and descriptive labels. For instance, cats might be “Private Investigators,” “Sidekicks,” or “Party Animals.” Dogs can be “Couch Potatoes,” “Goofballs,” or “Go-Getters.” Adopters are given a survey to identify their own personalities and lifestyles. Then matches can be made.

Adopters who use Meet Your Match are less likely to return their new housemates to the shelter, while the pets are more likely to adjust easily to their new homes. The program is a great way to promote successful adoptions, and in some cases, find true furry love.

If you’re looking to adopt, ask your local shelters if they use Meet Your Match. If not, you can suggest it to them or read up on the pet personalities online and consider them as you look for your soul mate.

Learn more about Meet Your Match at the ASPCA’s website.


January Poll Results

Last month, we asked what New Year resolution you were making for your pet. The results are in:

40% - Play for 30 minutes a day.

18% - No more table scraps.

20% - Schedule an annual check-up.

22% - No resolutions for us!


Looking for more pet health news and touching stories? Read our blog!


Pet Speak: A Customer’s Story

Sammy and I were meant to find each other in life. I was sitting at a picnic table outside of the building where I work when this white kitty stopped to look at me. He sat down and let me pet him. Then I watched him as he played with the leaves as the wind blew. He must have been wandering around for a while as several of my co-workers had seen him. Even though I’ve never had a cat before, it was love at first sight, and I took him home.

Sammy is the sweetest thing ever. My life has been happier since we met. To make sure I keep him healthy, I have ASPCA Pet Health Insurance. It’s a relief to know you'll be there for my Sammy when he needs it!

— Hailey M., Union, N.J.

Tell us your story!

Visit the ASPCA’s website to read more about dog dental care or cat dental care.

*American Veterinary Medical Association, 2009.

Conditions discussed in this e-newsletter are not necessarily covered by every ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan. Please review your individual policy for specifics by visiting the Member Center online at www.aspcapetinsurance.com or call our customer service line at 1-866-204-6764.

This newsletter is not intended to provide advice on individual pet health or behavioral matters or to substitute for consultation with a veterinary doctor.

While the above testimonial may include examples of recent claim payouts, reimbursement is subject to the terms and conditions of your plan. Identifying information has been changed.