Why Ignoring Your Pet’s Teeth Could Lead to Fatal Consequences — And The Pet Dental Tips You Should Know

February marks a significant month for pet owners and veterinarians alike—it’s Pet Dental Health Month. This annual observance emphasizes the paramount importance of dental care in pets, which often goes overlooked.

In an interview with the Animal Rescue Site, Dr. Emily Stein of TEEF for Life explains the dire consequences of neglecting oral hygiene in pets,

“Pets, like humans do, have ticking time bombs in their mouths, and that can shorten their lifespan and lead to pretty disastrous systemic effects if the oral hygiene is neglected,” she says.

Feeding pets a proper diet is key to preventing dental disease.

Photo: Pexels
Feeding pets a proper diet is key to preventing dental disease.

Understanding Pet Dental Disease

Dental disease in pets is not just about bad breath or yellow tartar; it’s a painful condition that can lead to serious health issues if untreated.

“About 80% of dogs by the age of three and 90% of cats by the age of seven have dental disease, which can shorten their lifespan by a third,” Dr. Stein says.

This condition can lead to chronic pain and affect vital organs like the kidneys and liver, reports the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA).

Poor dental health can lead to heart, liver, and kidney diseases in pets.

Photo: Pexels
Poor dental health can lead to heart, liver, and kidney diseases in pets.

The Myth of Brushing and Dietary Insights

Contrary to common belief, brushing pets’ teeth may not be the panacea for preventing dental disease. Dr. Stein points out that the act of brushing might merely redistribute bacteria within the mouth. Instead, she advocates for dietary changes, particularly reducing carbohydrate intake, which feeds harmful bacteria responsible for dental disease.

“Brushing the animal’s teeth doesn’t really work because you’re just smearing bacteria around. It really is what you feed the dogs and what you feed the cats that matters,” she says.

Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in pets.

Photo: Pexels
Periodontal disease is the most common dental condition in pets.

Home Dental Care Practices

Home dental care is vital in maintaining your pet’s dental health. Simple practices such as ensuring fresh water, regularly cleaning water bowls and food dishes, and avoiding carbohydrate-rich diets can make a significant difference, Dr. Stein says.

“Wash out water bowls and food dishes every other day with soap. It’s a basic habit that is great for pet dental hygiene,” Dr. Stein says.

Additionally, incorporating toys that promote dental health and consulting with veterinarians for appropriate dental care products can support your pet’s oral hygiene.

Regular dental check-ups are crucial for pets' overall health.

Photo: Pexels
Regular dental check-ups are crucial for pets’ overall health.

Challenging Traditional Beliefs

Dr. Stein’s approach to pet dental health encourages pet owners to adopt data-driven practices. By focusing on creating an environment that fosters good bacteria, she says, pet parents can improve their pets’ overall health and longevity. However, this approach may call for a paradigm shift in how we perceive and manage our pets’ dental care.

“We’re trying to foster the growth of the good bacteria, which is underappreciated in maintaining pet dental health,” Dr. Stein says.

Pet Dental Health Month serves as a timely reminder for all pet owners to prioritize their furry friends’ dental care. With insights from experts like Dr. Emily Stein and the backing of veterinary science, it’s clear that maintaining oral hygiene in pets is a multifaceted endeavor that goes beyond brushing. By adopting a holistic approach that includes professional care, dietary adjustments, and regular home maintenance, pet owners can significantly contribute to their pets’ health, happiness, and lifespan.

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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, spending time with his daughters, and coffee.
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