BAD breath is cause by a BAD problem 

When it comes to taking care of you pet Febuary is normally a quiet month. Being stuck indoors is no fun but it can be a good time to go over the problem that we tend to forget about but are present all year round.  One of the biggest ones out there for both humans and your pets is dental disease. 

Dental disease is a common health problem in
dogs and cats. It can lead to bad breath;
swollen, bleeding gums; loose teeth; difficulty
eating; and even more severe problems. But you can
easily avoid these problems by regularly visiting your
veterinarian for professional exams and cleanings and
by caring for your pet’s teeth at home.

What causes dental disease?

A thin film of protein from saliva, food particles, and
dead cells forms on your pet’s teeth and gums. If this
layer is allowed to thicken, it becomes a perfect environment
for bacteria. Bacterial plaque buildup along
the gum line can lead to gingivitis, or inflamed gums,
and infection. Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, an
inflammation of the deeper tissues surrounding the
teeth. In severe cases, periodontitis may be associated
with the spread of infection to other parts of the body,
including the heart and kidneys.

What your veterinarian can do to prevent dental disease
At your pet’s dental appointment, your veterinarian
will first examine its mouth and teeth for problems
such as plaque, calculus, or gingivitis; broken or missing
teeth; discolored teeth; masses; or obvious periodontal
disease. Then your veterinarian will anesthetize
your pet to examine its mouth more thoroughly
and to clean its teeth. The in-depth exam may reveal
that your pet needs treatment such as tooth extraction
or special therapy for advanced gum disease. Dental
X-rays may also be needed to find problems that can’t
be seen by visual examination. Finally, after examining
and cleaning your pet’s teeth, your veterinarian will
polish them and may apply fluoride.

Brushing your pet’s teeth at home

Brushing your pet’s teeth can go a long way toward
preventing dental disease. Some pets resist brushing,
but most eventually accept it, especially if you start a
brushing routine when your pet is young (10 weeks to
10 months). Aim at brushing your pet’s teeth once a
day or at least twice a week.

Step 1: Choose a pet toothpaste your pet likes. (Don’t
use human toothpaste or toothbrushes on your pet.
Human toothpaste may be toxic in pets if ingested,
and human toothbrushes are too big
for a pet’s mouth.) Several brands and flavors
are available to help coax your pet into a
brushing regimen. Place a small amount of flavored
pet toothpaste on your finger, and
offer it to your pet daily for several days as a
reward or treat. This will condition your pet to view
brushing as fun and rewarding. Once your pet accepts
toothpaste as a reward, use your index finger to simulate
the brushing motion of a toothbrush, while praising the
pet and giving the daily dose of flavored toothpaste.

Step 2: In five to seven days, introduce a softbristled
pet toothbrush. You can apply a small bit of
the flavored toothpaste at the beginning and end of
brushing to reinforce the conditioned behavior. The
brushing technique for dogs and cats is similar to that
for people. Position the bristles at a 45-degree angle to
the tooth. Make small circular strokes at the gum line
while rotating the bristles outward to remove debris.
Start at the back teeth and work forward and around to
the other side. Eight to 10 strokes are usually sufficient
for a given area. To brush the inner surfaces of the
teeth, try inserting a toy into the front of the pet’s
mouth to hold it open while you brush.

Other ways to prevent dental disease

Toys, treats, rawhide chews, and specially formulated
foods are available to help keep your pet’s teeth clean,
but use these in addition to brushing your pet’s teeth.
Most of these toys and foods have a mild abrasive action
to help wipe away the thin layer of protein that
builds up on teeth. Others are treated with enzymes to
help reduce bacteria. Your veterinarian may also recommend
gels, sprays, rinses, or special treats or foods
that chemically retard plaque. When buying treats or
foods, look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council
(VOHC) seal of approval. For a list of approved products,
visit www.vohc.org.

Follow-up exams are important to monitor home
care and signs of dental disease. Keep in mind that if
home dental care is not provided, then professional
cleanings may be needed more often. And if your pet is
having difficulty accepting home care, contact your veterinarian
so you can work together to find an agreeable
solution. Remember, by taking care of your pet’s teeth
and gums, you’re helping care for its overall health. ■