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 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey reports that only 14% of dogs and 9% of cats receive dental care at the veterinarian’s office.
“Dental care is key in maintaining a pet’s overall health,” says Dr. Cori Gross, a field veterinarian for Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI).
Gross says 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.
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 outlined by the American Veterinary Dental Society:
- Take your pet to get a dental exam. Your pet should have a routine veterinarian examination, including a careful examination of his teeth and gums, at least once a year.
- Start an at-home regimen. Ask your veterinarian to suggest nutritional supplements and a regular teeth brushing schedule or a specially formulated food proven to help remove plaque and tarter from your pet’s teeth.
- Schedule dental cleanings. Take your pet for regular dental checkups.
Signs Of Dental Disease
So, what are some indicators that your cat or dog may have dental disease? The American Veterinary Dental College, the clinical specialist organization for veterinary dentists, lists the following on their Web site:
- Bad breath
- Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar
- Your pet is not comfortable with you touching within the mouth area
- Drooling or dropping food from the mouth
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Loss of appetite or loss of weight
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 VPI’s base medical plans reimburse for everything from tooth abscesses to root canals and periodontal disease? In fact, VPI policyholders filed more than $8.5 million in claims for routine dental care in 2011. Optional coverage, such as VPI's CareGuardSM riders, allows pet owners to elect annual dental cleanings for their cats and dogs. To learn more, click here.
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