Brush Up on Your Pet's Oral Care

February Is Pet Dental Health Awareness Month

February is pet dental health awareness month. When was the last time you checked Max or Fluffy’s pearly (or not-so-pearly) whites…or took them to the veterinarian for a dental exam?

Many pet owners may not realize just how crucial oral care is; according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an organization dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three.

Dental Disease Can Be Deadly

While those are dangerously high numbers, research indicates that when it comes to our fuzzy friends, dental care is not a priority. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association National Pet Owners Survey reports that only 16% of dogs and 8% of cats receive proper veterinary dental care.

Dental care is key in maintaining a pet’s overall health. Bacteria in an animal’s mouth can get into a pet’s bloodstream and infuse different organs, causing infections that can potentially cause death. The AVMA reports the organs most often affected by oral diseases are the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver, and even the nervous system.

Three Simple Steps to Dental Care

Pet owners can brush up on their four-legged friends’ oral care by following three simple guidelines:

  • 1. Take your pet to get a Comprehensive Oral Health Exam and Treatment (COHAT) Your pet should have a a well-care examination by a veterinarian, including a careful examination of his teeth and gums, at least once a year.
  • 2. Start an at-home regimen.Once your pet’s teeth and gums are in good shape, ask your veterinarian to suggest a regular teeth brushing schedule. There are also  specially formulated foods that can  help remove plaque and tarter from your pet’s teeth.
  • 3. Be aware of potential problems. Watch for problems with your pet’s teeth and gums, if you notice issues, call for a veterinary visit for follow-up care.

Signs Of Dental Disease

So, what are some indicators that your cat or dog may have dental disease? The American Veterinary Medical Association, lists the following on their Web site:

  • - Bad breath
  • - Broken or loose teeth
  • - Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • - Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • - Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • - Pain in or around the mouth
  • - Drooling or dropping food from the mouth
  • - Bleeding from the mouth
  • - Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Your pet’s dental health is just as important as your own; if your pet shows any of these signs, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dental Coverage for Pets

Did you know that Nationwide’s medical plans cover eligible dental disease expenses — everything from tooth abscesses to root canals and periodontal disease? To learn more, click here.