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Speaking of Pets
February is Dental Health Month
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February is National Spay and Neuter Month and National Pet Dental Health Month.

What better time than now to schedule a dental evaluation and/or spay/neuter for your pet. Many veterinary clinics and humane societies are offering discounted prices on these procedures this month.

Not only is spaying or neutering your cat or dog beneficial for the health and well-being of your pet, but it also has a direct impact on reducing the number of homeless pets in Pinellas County.

Preventative care for pets is also critical, and dental care for pets is just as important as it is for humans. Dental disease not only affects the mouth but can also lead to more serious health problems, which can affect the heart, lungs, kidneys, as well as other organs.

Plaque is a bacterial film that forms on the teeth. When bacteria attached to the teeth, die, they can become calcified by calcium present in the saliva. This calcified substance, tartar, forms a hard, rough surface, which promotes additional plaque to accumulate.

Plaque can lead to gingivitis – inflammation of the gums – causing the gums to become red and inflamed. If plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, an infection can form around the tooth root, destroying surrounding tissues (periodonditis.) The bony socket holding the tooth in place can erode, causing the tooth to become loose and eventually lost.

As a veterinarian, I have seen calculus build-up so severe that the teeth were held in place by tartar only. Once the tartar was removed, the teeth fell right out onto my hand!

Some signs that your pet may have dental disease are:

• Offensive smelling breath (halitosis)
• Excessive drooling
• Dropping food from the mouth
• Loose teeth
• Discolored teeth
• Teeth covered in tartar
• Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face or mouth
• Reluctance to eat hard food
• Red, swollen gums

The best way to prevent dental disease in your pet is to frequently remove dental plaque that forms on the teeth. Brush your pets’ teeth daily with a veterinarian-approved toothpaste or dental cleaner. You can also provide hard food or chew toys to help dislodge plaque and exercise the gums. Chew toys also prevent boredom and help reduce stress in your pet. Have your pet’s teeth evaluated by your veterinarian at your annual pet health check-up, and dental evaluations should begin in kitten- and puppyhood. If your pet has dental disease, your veterinarian will make appropriate recommendations to treat your pet and stop the progression of the disease.

Regular teeth brushing at home and dental check-ups and cleanings can help your pets live longer, healthier, happier lives.

Dr. Hart is a veterinarian and the practice owner of Vet with Hart Veterinary House Call Practice LLC. Email her at www.v­etwit­hhart­.com.
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