Good dental health in pets essential to overall health

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Purdue University veterinarian wants people to become more aware of how poor dental care can affect other aspects of their pet’s health, especially since studies show that proper dental care can extend a pet’s life by as much as five years.

In February, several veterinary groups, including the American Veterinary Medicine Association and the American Veterinary Dental Society, observe Pets Dental Health Month.

“It’s important for all pet owners to know that pets can lead longer and healthier lives with good dental care,” says Lorraine Corriveau, wellness veterinarian in the School of Veterinary Medicine.

A recent nationwide veterinary study shows that there appears to be a strong association between the health of the pet’s mouth and the incidence of other health issues, such as heart murmurs or even infection of the lining of the heart.

“Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care,” Corriveau says. “Approximately 80 percent of all dogs and cats have periodontal disease by the time they are only two years old. A recent American Animal Hospital Association report on compliance within veterinary practices showed that less than 35 percent of pets that need a dental cleaning ever receive one.”

To help prevent dental problems from becoming a serious health issue, Corriveau recommends the following:

– Oral health care should start early. Corriveau encourages early training to help the pet learn to tolerate brushing and other preventive measures, and it will help the owner recognize abnormalities.

– A weekly check of the pet’s mouth may help find issues before they become dangerous. Look for plaque and tartar, especially on the large canine teeth in the front of the mouth and the big shearing teeth in the back of the mouth. Other potential areas of concern include fractured teeth, gum tissue that is overgrown or does not appear to be a healthy pink color, bleeding from the gums or any ulceration in the mouth.

– Your nose can be an important tool. Pets are not supposed to have bad breath. If you can detect any foul odor, or if you see any problems in your pet’s mouth, see a veterinarian.

– Use a barrier sealant to protect your pet against the effects of plaque and calculus. For optimal results, see your veterinarian to have your pet’s teeth cleaned, followed by an initial application of the sealant, followed by routine cleanings.

One of the newest advancements in pet oral health is the development of a periodontal vaccine, Corriveau says. This vaccine targets the anaerobic bacteria that most commonly leads to gum disease in dogs.

“This vaccine does not take the place of good oral care such as brushing or routine dental cleanings, but it may help with teeth, bone or gum disease that leads to loss of teeth,” she says. “Please see your veterinarian if you think this vaccine may benefit your dog.”

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 July 2020