Delmarva Pets: Local vet reminds pet owners of National Pet Dental Health Month
Posted: Feb 11, 2018 10:40 PM
By Abbey Smith
(REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.) - February is National Pet Dental Health Month. To celebrate, veterinarians on Delmarva are reminding pet owners to mind their pets' teeth and gums.
Dr. Sarah Hirsch of Rehoboth Beach Animal Hospital says pet owners should clean their pet's teeth at least twice a week. She says neglecting your pet's dental health could lead to more serious health problems later down the road.
"Just like humans, dental health is very, very important for pets. Not only is it a stinky, smelly mouth, but that smell is because of infection and chronic infections in the mouth can spread to other places. It can actually impact their kidneys, their liver, and their heart," explained Dr. Hirsch. "Untreated dental disease can also cause pain in animals and we don't want our pets in pain."
Dr. Hirsch says the best way to brush a cat or dog's teeth is by using a soft bristled tooth or finger brush and brush in a circular motion.
"We mostly only worry about the outer surface of the pet's teeth, because it's very difficult to get the inner surface," said Dr. Hirsch. "A soft-bristled toothbrush should be fine and always use a toothpaste specifically made for pets."
Dr. Hirsch says human toothpaste has too much fluoride in it, which can be toxic for pets. She also says pets should be seen by their veterinarian at least once a year to determine if a professional oral cleaning is needed.
"Each time you bring your pet in for an exam, we'll always take a look at their teeth and let you know how things are looking. But at least once a year they should be examined and then from there your vet will make the recommendation if they need a full dental cleaning or just more at-home care," said Dr. Hirsch.
Signs of poor dental health include foul-smelling breath, tartar buildup on teeth, as well as inflamed or bleeding gums. Other signs include drooling, pawing at the mouth, shying away from hard or crunchy food and treats, and only eating on one side of the mouth. Dr. Hirsch says bring your pet in for treatment if he or she shows any of these symptoms.
"Schedule with a vet as soon as you can to have a look and see what's going on and then we'll determine if a dental cleaning is needed. A lot of times along with the cleaning, we'll actually take X-rays when the pet's under anesthesia and we'll determine if any teeth need to be extracted or removed," said Dr. Hirsch.
Dr. Hirsch also says brushing is really the mainstay of treatment. She says a lot of treats advertise that they help clean the dog's teeth, but brushing is the best thing you can do at home.
"The really hard bones can actually break teeth if they're too hard, so I don't actually recommend them," explained Dr. Hirsch. "A kind of goofy rule of thumb is if you bang it on your knee cap and it hurts, it's hard enough to break a tooth. Marrow bones are the most common and deer antlers- we see a lot of fractured teeth after those."
Lastly, Dr. Hirsch says flossing isn't necessary for most pets.
"They don't have the occlusal surfaces that we do a lot of the times, but a lot of the smaller breed dogs have some crowding and may have build-up in the teeth, but the risk of swallowing the floss and getting obstruction from that is too great for me to recommend," said Dr. Hirsch. "Mouthwash is not really, very common either because we don't want them to swallow it. There are some pet mouth flushes and washes like that, but it's not really needed or that effective."