Statistics are not in most pet’s favor.
A study that was done in 2020 found that nearly 70% of pet parents never brush their dog’s teeth. An earlier study from 2016 found that 73% of cat owners never brush their cat’s teeth even though they know they should. These studies indicate that most pet parents don’t really understand the importance of brushing their pet’s teeth or, they don’t know how to. Pets then unfortunately suffer from a lack of dental care, even starting from an early age. Here are some recent statistics:
- Over 80% of dogs age three and above have some form of dental disease.
- 85% of cats age three and older have some form of dental disease.
Now you can see why we dedicate a month out of the year as the National Pet Dental Health Month!
Gum Disease in Pets
As tartar builds up on the teeth, it then spreads below the gum line. Without a proper exam from a dentist, this condition can go on without detection. The tartar causes a loss of the structures that support the teeth that can result in:
- gum recession
- bone loss
- loose teeth
- bone infections
- fractured jaw
So you can see that gum disease is not just a matter of teeth going bad and then having to be pulled. The above conditions can cause your pet to suffer from:
- Pain. Pets are good at hiding pain. Because of this, you may not be aware of their suffering from dental disease.
- Dental disease can affect your pet’s ability to eat and can therefore cause weight loss.
- Advanced dental disease can lead to eroded gums, missing teeth, and bone loss.
- Most importantly, infections in the teeth can enter into the bloodstream and spread to the internal organs such as the heart, kidney, and liver.
Fractured Teeth in Pets
Fractured teeth are another thing to look out for in pets. A pet can fracture their teeth through trauma, such as being hit by a car or a hard object, or from chewing on hard objects such as bone or hard toys. A fractured tooth can cause sensitivity to heat and cold. A deep crack can fill with bacteria and make its way into the root canal. From there, it can enter the bloodstream and infect the vital organs of your pet’s body. While fractures cannot heal, we can seal or cover the tooth to prevent it from getting worse and spreading bacteria. So, the sooner you address it, the better.
Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth
Just like with humans, it would be idealistic to brush your pet’s teeth twice a day. But that may not be possible for anyone with a busy schedule. In that case, we suggest trying to do it at least once a day. If for some reason you can’t get to it, there are products you can get that help naturally clean your pet’s teeth. Talk to us about what products we recommend. Note: these can do in a pinch but shouldn’t be used as a substitute for brushing.
Alright, I realize brushing your pet’s teeth is easier said than done. So, I have included a video below from the AVMA on how to brush your pet’s teeth. It can take some time for you and your pet to get the hang of it, so be patient and keep at it.
As covered above, dental disease can progress under the gums of your pet’s teeth without you even knowing it, even if you are regularly brushing your pet’s teeth. For this reason, we urge you to bring your pet in every six months for a dental exam and cleaning. Only professional cleaning can remove the plaque and tartar build-up on your pet’s teeth.
Stacey Funderburk D.V.M.
Nokomis Veterinary Service