February is National Pet Dental Month, which makes it a great time to check up on your pet’s teeth, especially if it’s been awhile or you haven’t done it in the past. Problems in your dog or cat’s 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 pet’s 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 pet to chew and eat, and they can cause more complications down the road.
To help avoid these issues, bring your pet to the veterinarian at least once a year for a dental exam. The veterinarian will examine your pet’s mouth inside and out, and 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 Pet Smiling
Here are some at-home suggestions for monitoring your pet’s 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. Your pet may hide pain and discomfort, so it’s important to check his or her mouth 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 pet’s 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.
4. Check your pet’s diet. The food your pet eats can impact dental health. Crunchy pet food or a combination of dry and wet food can keep your dog or cat’s mouth 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 pet’s 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 pet gnaw on hard toys that can injure his or her mouth or fracture teeth.
Later this month, we’ll share tips on how to brush your pet’s teeth!