February is National Pet Dental Health Month, but dental health should be a priority throughout the year for dogs and cats. The American Veterinary Medicine Association says that gum and oral diseases are the number one health problem in these pets. Periodontal disease is alarmingly common, and this can open the door to major health issues. What can you do to encourage clients to take better care of their pets’ teeth?
Clients Should Know Dental Problems are Common
We may associate cavities with sugar, yet we know that almost everyone has to deal with dental problems at some point in their lives. Likewise, dogs and cats still have dental problems despite a mostly sugar-free diet. Approximately 4 out of 5 dogs and 7 out of 10 cats have signs of periodontal disease by the age of three. As with humans, this plaque buildup can lead to infections and degradation of the jawbone. Most pet owners don’t know these risks, so they skip dental exams and home care entirely. While you can leverage campaigns by the AVMA and Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) during National Pet Dental Health Month, dental care should be part of every checkup.
Using Pet Treats and Tooth Brushing for Dental Care
The VOHC certifies treats that remove plaque, and won’t cause nutritional or physical harm. However, these treats only work if the animal chews on them. If the owner gets treats that are too small, their pet may swallow them whole, making them a choking hazard. Certified pet treats should have a size guide to help dog owners match treats to their dog, based on weight.
Treats alone aren’t enough to protect a pet’s teeth. The council recommends daily brushing for the best results, but three times a week is usually sufficient when paired with dental treats. Getting dogs and cats to accept being brushed is usually a matter of training combined with finding a toothpaste they like. While owners may want to go with mint, remind them that consistent oral care, even with meat-flavored toothpaste, will do a lot to freshen their pet’s breath. As for methods, the AVMA has helpful videos that you can use together with in-clinic teaching to train pets and owners on brushing teeth.
Avoiding Abrasive Toys and Treats
Bones are well known for being hazardous if swallowed. However, even large bones pose a problem, as gnawing on them quickly wears down enamel. Likewise, the fabric that makes tennis balls fuzzy also acts like a scouring pad on teeth. Dog-safe tennis balls use different coatings that aren’t abrasive.
Symptoms that Could Be Dental-Related
Issues like bleeding gums and swelling around the mouth are easy to trace to dental problems. However, there are many less obvious symptoms that owners should know about. Oral health issues can change how the animal chews, make them drool more than normal, or cause them to drop food. Oral discomfort and functional problems can lead to reduced appetite and weight loss. This can be dangerous for cats, who can experience hepatic lipidosis if their liver is overwhelmed with fat processing during starvation.
Encourage Clients to Make Your Clinic Their First Stop for Pet Care
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