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The Importance of Pet Dental Health

February is Pet Dental Health Month, an event meant to promote and raise awareness. While a mouth full of pearly whites or having fresh breath might seem like superfluous, cosmetic nonessentials, the hard truth is that dental disease is a MAJOR health risk to your pet. If left unaddressed, dental disease can cause progressive issues that put your pet’s entire body and overall health in jeopardy, says Natalie Stilwell, DMV, MS, PhD. Here are some of the issues she says that can result:

Gum Inflammation

Beneath the gumline, the bacteria associated with plaque release toxins that damage the surrounding tissues. White blood cells then enter those areas in an effort to destroy the bacteria. This process causes significant inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. The inflammation causes the gums to look abnormally red and puffy, and the tissue may bleed when touched.

Pathologic Jaw Fracture

Inflammation also commonly leads to periodontitis, or loss of the supportive, structural tissues surrounding the teeth. When white blood cells attempt to clear accumulating bacteria, the resulting inflammatory process erodes the supporting tissues of the tooth. Over time, this destruction causes structural weakening of the tooth sockets and jaw bones. Symptoms of periodontitis include loose teeth and infection or fracture of the jaw.

Kidney and Liver Disease

Oral inflammation allows bacteria in the mouth to enter directly into the bloodstream. Once circulating, these bacteria can travel to and establish in other organs, especially the liver and kidneys. Organ infection (like liver disease or kidney disease) and failure are well-documented consequences of untreated canine periodontal disease.

Heart Disease

Chronic inflammation from periodontal disease can also increase a pet’s risk of heart disease. Circulating bacteria can cause an inflammatory condition known as endocarditis. Studies have also shown that pets with dental disease have an increased risk of congestive heart failure, a progressive and potentially fatal disease.

Loss of Weight and Appetite

Dental issues may cause feeding to become an uncomfortable or even painful process for your pet. As a result, they may be reluctant to open their jaw and chew food properly, and may drop food from their mouth while eating. Over time, the reluctance to eat can take a toll on your dog’s body condition, leading to weight loss. Poor appetite and weight loss may also indicate that dental disease is causing chronic problems in the liver, heart and kidneys.

Prevention is the key to combat these dental related issues. Regular teeth brushing is an essential part of the process. Examination of the teeth by your vet during wellness visits are also integral. Ask your vet for pet toothbrush/toothpaste recommendations.

Here is a quick VIDEO to show proper cleaning technique. ENJOY!


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