You brush your teeth every morning and night, but never give a second thought to your pets' oral health. Here are a few things to consider about your dog or cat's dental health.
The American Veterinary Dental Society warns that by age three, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats are likely to suffer from oral disease, which can eventually lead to serious implications for their critical organs such as the heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
"Oral disease is the most common health problem diagnosed in dogs and cats. The reason is simply that many pet owners don't know how to care for their pet's teeth," according to Dr Guy Fyvie, spokesperson for national Hill's Pet Dental Month, an annual campaign in August.
Bad breath first problem sign
"Bad doggy breath is often the first sign of a problem," says Fyvie. "Keeping your pet's teeth clean might sound like a joke but proper dental care can literally save its life," he adds.
Oral disease is preventable, yet left untreated it leads to tooth decay, bleeding gums, mouth pain and eventually, tooth loss. The bacteria that cause these problems can also eventually cause organ failure. Proper dental care can literally make a life or death difference to your pet's well-being, according to Fyvie.
"The cause of dental disease is the same for humans as it is for pets - a build-up of plaque and tartar. Brushing is an option, but not an easy one. A more convenient approach is to feed them food that will clean their teeth as they eat."
A 2003 Dutch in-home feline study, conducted by the Hills Science and Technology Centre, has shown that Hill's Prescription Diet Feline t/d, with its patented design kibble (available locally at vets) is more effective in controlling gingivitis than tooth brushing and is clinically proven to reduce both plaque and tartar. Vets find that these scientifically designed oral care diets are effective because pets are fed daily and many owners find it inconvenient to brush their pet's teeth as regularly. "The squeegee effect of the kibble scrubs the animal's teeth like a toothbrush," says Fyvie.
Other signs of oral disease
In addition to bad breath, other signs which indicate that your pet has oral disease include red and swollen gums, a yellow-brown crust of tartar around the gum line, pain in the mouth, a loss of appetite, lethargy and even depression. If any of these signs are present, owners should take their pets to the vet for a dental examination.
"Imagine how you would feel if you hadn't brushed your teeth for years!" concludes Dr Fyvie.
For more information about pet dental care chat to your local vet, visit www.petdental.com, or call the Hill's Pet Nutrition Careline toll free on (0800) 228 783.
(Health24, July 2008)