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Why is Poor Oral Hygiene Dangerous for Pets?

Poor oral hygiene in pets is associated with a number of health risks. The main risk is that pets will develop periodontal disease. Unhealthy gums, like those inflicted with periodontal disease, can result in loose or sore teeth, and difficulty eating. Periodontal disease can even affect the major organs of the body.

Poor oral hygiene in pets is more serious than most pet owners realize. Roughly 70-80 percent of cats and dogs develop periodontal disease by the time they are three years old. That’s a significant figure, especially, since poor oral hygiene is also linked to shorter life span.

The first stage of poor oral hygiene in pets is, typically, the accumulation of plaque near the gums. Otherwise known as gingivitis, this condition can be treated, but animals will likely require teeth cleaning, with anesthesia, in order to scrape off the plaque. Signs of gingivitis can be evident through an examination of the animal’s mouth. A red line along the base of the teeth, instead of the bright pink color that signifies a healthy mouth, is an indicator of gingivitis.

Gingivitis is actually a bacterial infection. When left untreated, the bacteria begin to move under the gum line, infecting the teeth at their roots. This is periodontal disease, and it has numerous symptoms. These include bad breath, excessive drooling, yellow or brown tartar deposits on the teeth, red gums, and loose or missing teeth.

Periodontal disease is not curable, but it can be treated. Treatment generally involves extractions of severely infected teeth, regular cleaning appointments, and antibiotics to help reduce the infection. If left untreated, the infection can enter the blood stream where it can cause damage to the liver, heart, and kidneys.

Poor oral hygiene in pets can be forestalled with a few steps. Dry food is always best for cats and dogs. Wet food and people food actually helps plaque develop more quickly. Dry food, conversely, should help keep a pet's teeth from developing significant plaque.

Poor oral hygiene in pets can also be avoided, or at least diminished, by making tooth brushing routine. This can be challenging with an older animal that is not used to it. Tooth brushing habits should start early, using a bit of gauze to wipe the teeth, so the pet gets used to activity.

Once the pet has this down, buy a pet size toothbrush and pet toothpaste. Do not use people toothpaste as this can make your pet sick. Try to brush at least once a week, although three to five times a week is ideal.

If your pet refuses brushing, some products which can be added to the pet’s water may be effective in reducing plaque build-up. These products have no odor and color, and may be a good way to go for the pet that fights through brushing attempts. Pet biscuits can also be a great way to combat poor oral hygiene because they also help the teeth shed plaque build up.

If you notice signs of poor oral hygiene in your pets, be certain to visit the veterinarian as soon as possible. It is better to get an early start on combating the issue, rather than allowing your pet’s health to deteriorate.

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Discuss this Article

LisaLou
Post 3

If you get in the habit of brushing your pets teeth when they are small, it will be something that is familiar to them and they won't fight you on it.

If you wait until they are older when it is more apparent that they need it, you might be in for an unpleasant experience at first.

I probably wouldn't have too much problem with my dog, but I can't imagine trying to get my cat to hold still for something like that at the age she is now.

Dental hygiene is just as important for our pets as it is for us even though it is something that we don't think about very often.

SarahG
Post 2

Bad oral hygiene can end up affecting the heart in an older pet or in a human. Why not help your pet (or spouse) live a healthy life by taking good care of their teeth?

uzumba2
Post 1

If you are going to have children or own pets, good oral hygiene is something you need to commit to. Whether you have a puppy or older dog, you should know that dry food is better for their health than wet food.

If you can't commit to wiping or brushing your dog's teeth from an early age, you should know that dental problems can be an issue later. Brushing your dogs' teeth early on helps get them used to having their mouths touched.

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