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Norwich Bulletin - 4/2/2006

Smile!

Oral disease is thought to be the most common health problem for dogs and cats. By the age of three, 80% of dogs and cats have developed some type of periodontal disease. Most people do not even think about teeth problems with their young pets, especially if they are feeding a quality dry food. I was amazed that most of my cats needed some type of dental treatment by the age of 4, since I feed a high priced, quality dry food.

Left untreated, oral infections can lead to tooth decay or loss, and even more frightening, can spread through the bloodstream and cause kidney, liver, lung and heart problems. The good news is with a little proactiveness, oral problems are both easily treatable and preventable by following a program of regular veterinary dental exams and a home dental care routine. Daily brushing combined with special pet foods and daily brushing are the answer to your pet keeping all its teeth and having a great smile!

Causes of periodontal disease begins with plaque. Plaque is a colorless film that contains large amounts of bacteria. If left unchecked, plaque can mineralize into tartar, destroying gums and resulting in the loss of the tissues and bone that support the teeth. All pets are at risk for developing dental problems and there is a series of signs that can give you the heads up on periodontal diseases.

If your pet has bad breath, yellow-brown crust on the teeth, bleeding gums, tooth loss, abnormal drooling, a change of chewing habits or a change of eating habits (such as going to the food bowl but not eating), you can be fairly certain that your furry friend is suffering from some sort of oral disease. And if you notice that your pet is also losing weight, you need to get to a vet as soon as possible. Once the plaque hardens and turns to tartar, it can build up below the gum line, causing inflammation of the gum tissue (gingivitis) and the lining of the tooth socket (periodontitis). Without treatment, you are taking the chance of some serious future health problems.

There are contributing factors to oral disease, including poor oral hygiene. Specific breeds of pure bred cats, small dogs and older pets have a greater chance of developing problems and mouth care need to be aggressively handled before the disease strikes.

Start with a pet food designed to reduce the buildup of plaque and tarter. Look for foods that carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal of Acceptance. You can ask your vet for some suggestions, or visit www.vohc.org for a list of healthy pet foods. Do not feed your pet table scraps as this can increase the formation of plaque and tartar. Also, train your pet to accept regular brushings at home.

Introduce a brushing program gradually. It could take several days or even weeks before your dog or cat will be accepting of this new procedure. At first, dip your finger into something they like (tuna water for cats works great and probably beef soup for dogs) and rub your finger over the pets mouth and teeth. Make these sessions brief and happy for your pet. Next you can use gauze on your finger with the same flavor and begin rubbing the teeth in a circular motion.

Before graduating to a soft bristle toothbrush, put a small amount of pet toothpaste on your finger and allow your pet to taste it. Then place a dab of toothpaste on a moist toothbrush and begin gently brushing away from the gumline. Use only pet toothpaste as human toothpaste is not made for animals and could cause stomach problems for your pet. Plaque should be removed from your petís teeth every day before it materializes into tartar and brushing your cat or dogís teeth properly each day will remove plaque buildup.

There are great tasting treats to work at protecting your dog or catís teeth. C.E.T. has an easy to digest, exclusive time-tested Dual-Enzyme System to control plaque and eliminate bacteria build-up. The best way to utilize these chews is to give them to your cat (freeze dried catfish treat) or dog (beefhide treat) daily, as an extra added protection for your pet.

Make sure that your yearly exams include a thorough dental exam. If any kind of oral disease is found, your vet will suggest a treatment plan, which may include an initial tooth cleaning or even some extractions may be necessary to get your petís mouth healthy again. Then you can start fresh on a daily regime of brushing and chews.

Just donít forget about your petís mouth care. Your pet is never too old to start a dental care routine and it is an important step to maintaining good health. See your veterinarian to help you get started.

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