by Tania Sigurdson, PVHS Education Chair
So, February is Pet Dental Health month and I have to confess…I have not been a great pet mum for good dental health over the years. I have bought the little finger toothbrushes and the strangely flavoured pet toothpaste but, not unlike my own commitment to marathon training, eventually, I quit and my energy goes to other things. This is why having a month dedicated to dental health helps remind us and inspire us that dental health is important as a preventative measure to avoid costly corrective measures later. Just this past December, due to dental neglect, my dog Henry needed to have two teeth pulled. Let me tell you, I was deeply regretting allowing that finger toothbrush to collect dust in the medicine cabinet at that appointment. I am now a strong advocate for taking the important proactive steps to care for our animal’s teeth and gums and, as an added bonus, work to combat that stinky pet breath.
An interesting fact about stinky pet breath from dogtipper.com is that “bad breath is often one of the first signs of dental disease, which affects a staggering 78 percent of dogs and 68 percent of cats over the age of three.” If you notice that your pet’s breath has started to make your nose hairs curl, it would be a good idea to take a quick check of inside their mouth to see how things are going up in there. Dogtipper.com goes on to say that “dental disease can include swollen, bleeding gums, broken or infected teeth, or even cancer”. Similarly to our own teeth, neglect of our dental health can lead to a build-up of plaque around the teeth. When plaque is allowed to live around your pet’s teeth untreated, bacteria makes its home around the teeth leading to infection. In humans, we would call this gum disease – swollen bleeding gums that eventually lead to painful teeth. Unfortunately, animals cannot tell us when they are in pain and this may simply appear as irritable, having accidents or becoming withdrawn.
So, how do we help? What if our animal is already well into adulthood – how do we begin to help now? What if professional dental cleaning is simply out of the budget? Well, to go back to my training to run a marathon analagy, you just need to start. And each day commit to doing the next day, then the next, and the next. And, if you miss a few days because life got busy – don’t quit! Get back at it as soon as you can and get back into your daily routine. Your pet will take some time to get used to you getting your fingers in their mouth but combine it with lots of happy attention and cuddles and they will get into it soon enough. And know that, as with humans, daily care is the key to healthy teeth and the best way to prevent larger problems and costs.
So this February, go out and buy yourself a pet toothbrush and some yummy chicken or tuna flavoured toothpaste and get all up in those pets’ mouths. It will take some time to build a routine but your efforts will both benefit your pocketbook and your pet’s health.
From my fur family to yours….happy brushing!