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We all understand the importance of good dental hygiene for humans: daily brushing and flossing—not to mention bi-annual trips to the dentist—keeps our mouths clean and devoid of infection. But have you considered how oral hygiene, or a lack thereof, affects your pet’s health?
Believe it or not, properly cleaning teeth, gums, and the like can make a big difference in your furry friend’s life—say, two to five years! That’s right: a healthy mouth has the potential to add as much as a half-decade to their overall lifespan!
In this article, we are going to cover the basics of dental hygiene for pets.
How does poor dental hygiene affect my pet’s health?
As with humans, a pet’s mouth is a haven for bacteria. (It’s warm, it’s moist, and it’s frequently littered with residual food.) While some bacteria are natural and harmless on their own, others carry diseases with life-threatening potential. Once inside the mouth, these nasty pathogens will incubate, multiply, multiply even more, and spread infections.
- Periodontal disease: Also known as gum disease, this is the most common dental problem for canines—in fact, gum disease is five times more common with dogs than it is with people! (This is because dogs’ mouths contain high amounts of alkaline, encouraging the formation of plaque.) Potential consequences include tooth loss, eroded gums, and immense pain.
- Gingivitis: An early stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis is caused by the formation of plaque and is indicated by mild inflammation of the gum. Be sure to notify your veterinarian right away if you suspect your pet has gingivitis. At this stage, it is easily treatable!
More deadly still: poor dental hygiene has the potential to affect your pet’s vital organs. When bacterium lingers in the mouth, the microorganisms can filter throughout your pet’s body via the bloodstream—affecting the brain, the heart, the liver, and the kidneys. (Remember what we said earlier about hygiene making a difference of five years in your pet’s life!) According to Dr. Jan Bellows, a Diplomat of the American Veterinary Dental College, “As the kidneys, liver, and brain filter blood, small infections occur, causing permanent and at times fatal organ damage.”
Related Article: Four Steps for Dental Success >>
What are the signs of poor dental hygiene?
- Bad breath: If your pet’s is experiencing halitosis (extremely foul-smelling breath), it could be a sign of bacterial infection.
- Red or swollen gums: Check your pet’s gums every now and then. If anything looks out of the ordinary, such as swelling or change of color, contact your veterinarian.
- Bleeding from the mouth: Bleeding, no matter the cause, is never a good sign.
- Frequent pawing at the mouth: This is a sign of irritation. Your pet’s gums, tongue, cheeks, teeth, the roof of their mouth—something is bothering them and should be looked at pronto.
- Reluctance to eat: An infection in the mouth could affect your pet’s willingness to eat. It might even be painful for them to chew their food. If they cannot eat and obtain the necessary nutrients, their health will be diminished even further!
What can I do to improve my pet’s dental hygiene?
First off: no one knows more about what’s best for your pet’s dental hygiene than your veterinarian, and there is no better method to clean teeth than a professional dental cleaning. But did you know there are some at-home techniques and products you can try? Your vet might even recommend them to keep your pet’s mouth in good shape.
- Dental Treats: The easiest way to fight plaque and tartar at home is to give your pet a tasty dental treat.
- Toothbrushes: Your veterinarian might recommend brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. If so, you’ll need a toothbrush specifically designed for pets. A human toothbrush will not do!
- Proper Diets: Maintaining a well-balanced diet is another way to ensure good oral health. Be sure to ask your vet what sort of food brands they recommend.
Be sure to check out our selection of dental health products, and add a few healthy years to your pet’s life!