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February is National Pet Dental Health Month

California Veterinarians Say Animals, like Humans, Need Regular Teeth

Brushing and Check-ups

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- Many pet owners spend time walking and grooming their pets but may not think about brushing their pets' teeth. The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) reports gingivitis and periodontal disease in dogs and cats have become widespread, and pet owners should take some simple actions to be sure their pet has good oral health.

"We hope 'National Pet Dental Health Month' in February will draw attention to this serious health issue for pets. All pet owners should start a regular dental care routine for their animals in consultation with their veterinarians," said Dr. Jeff Smith, president of the CVMA. "Oral disease can lead to serious consequences for pets, including infection, severe pain and even organ damage. With regular oral health maintenance and check-ups, most of these problems can be avoided."

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, more than 85 percent of dogs and cats show signs of oral disease by age four. The trouble begins when food particles and bacteria build up in the mouth to form plaque and tartar, which leads to reversible gingivitis. Gingivitis, if ignored, will progress to periodontal disease. Irreversible periodontal disease leads to tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums and, in severe cases, tooth loss. When bacteria from periodontal disease travels into a pet's bloodstream, the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and nervous system can be affected. These infections usually are treatable when caught at an early stage. However, if they are not caught in time, they can cause serious organ damage and even death.

The CVMA says all pets are at risk for developing dental problems, so it is important for owners to have their pets examined by a veterinarian annually to detect problems early. It also is important for owners to check their pets often between visits for these warning signs:

-- Bad breath

-- Tartar buildup on the teeth

-- Swollen, receding or bleeding gums

-- Fractured or abscessed teeth

-- Change in eating habits

A pet should be taken to a veterinarian immediately if it shows any of the above symptoms.

"It's important for pet owners to seek professional veterinary care in addition to providing good oral health care for their pets at home," adds Dr. Smith.

The CVMA recommends these simple steps to ensure proper pet dental health care:

Step 1. Visit a veterinarian at least once a year.

The veterinarian will examine a pet's teeth and gums. Recommendations may be made for cleaning, polishing and other dental care in the hospital and a program of home dental care.

Step 2. Professional dental care.

If a pet already shows evidence of periodontal disease, a professional cleaning is in order. Depending on the pet's age and physical condition, the doctor may recommend blood analyses, radiography or other diagnostic tests to evaluate the heart, liver and kidneys for coexisting disease before proceeding with general anesthesia.

Once a pet is anesthetized, accumulated tartar and calculus are removed by ultrasonic and hand scaling. Radiographs are taken to identify teeth needing fillings or root canals that can be repaired, and teeth that are beyond repair can be extracted. Finally, the teeth are polished to slow down formation of new plaque, tartar and calculus.

It is important that only veterinarians and their trained staff, under direct supervision, perform dental cleaning. Only veterinarians have the knowledge, skills and abilities to diagnose and treat diseases of animals, including dental diseases.

Step 3. Dental care at home.

Regular brushing is critical to any preventive dental program. A special toothbrush and toothpaste for pets are recommended.

Feeding pets a dental diet with the VOHC seal may help prevent accumulation of plaque, tartar and calculus. Consult a veterinarian regarding the best diet for your pet.

Step 4. Return to a veterinarian for regular dental checkups every six to 18 months or as recommended by your veterinarian.

The CVMA urges all pet owners during "National Pet Dental Health Care Month" to review their pet's dental care and take the necessary steps to ensure their pet has healthy teeth and gums.

The California Veterinary Medical Association is the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, with more than 6,000 members. Founded in 1888, its mission is to serve its membership and community through innovative leadership and to improve animal and human health in an ethically and socially responsible manner.

SOURCE California Veterinary Medical Association
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