SPARKS — An animal’s dental health is much more than a cosmetic issue. Poor oral hygiene can lead to serious and costly disease in your pet. With February being National Veterinary Dental Health Month, Pyramid Veterinary Hospital is working to educate the community on how to improve pets’ dental health and avoid costly veterinary bills.
“Most of us brush our teeth on a regular basis, but most pets, if they are lucky, might only get their teeth brushed once a year,” said Dr. Cal Williams, owner of Pyramid Veterinary Hospital. “In fact, 85 percent of all adult pets over 4 years of age have some form of periodontal disease.”
Periodontal disease is an infection between the tooth and the gum. Symptoms include discolored teeth, increased pawing at the mouth and bad breath. The tartar that builds on the teeth can cause gingivitis, infections and bacteria to enter into the bloodstream, affecting major organs such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. Typical treatment includes x-rays and, if necessary, a tooth extraction, which requires anesthesia.
The good news is that it is easily preventable.
“Ideally it is best to introduce teeth brushing to your pet when they are young, however you can still introduce brushing at any age,” Williams said.
Dr. Williams gives pet owners the following easy at-home tips:
• Start by gently holding your pet’s head and lifting his/her lips. This will get them used to you just being in their mouth. This can take a few hours to a few weeks depending on your pet’s temperament.
• Put a pet-approved toothpaste on your fingers and use it as a treat. Pyramid Veterinary Hospital recommends CET Dentifice, available at most veterinary hospitals.
• Once they are used to the taste and texture (which most pets love), start rubbing your fingers on the outside of their teeth.
• After a couple of weeks, add a finger brush. A finger brush slides over your index finger and has little bristles that help brush your pet’s teeth.
Be careful, go slow and use caution to make sure your pet does not bite you. This should be enjoyable for both you and your pet.
“Even though brushing your pet’s teeth will help with tartar control, it does not replace professional cleanings, but it can avoid hefty veterinary bills in the future,” Williams said.
Never use human toothpaste as it can irritate your animal’s stomach; never use fluoride on pets 6 months or younger; and chew toys can always help reduce soft tartar and strengthen teeth.
For more information about this and other animal-care issues, visit www.PVHCares.com