My sweet and adorable teenager has terrible breath and is losing her smile. This perky and inquisitive thirteen year old Maltese suffers from dental disease. I knew her kisses and breath were not as sweet as they once were, but I was not prepared for the condition of her teeth and gums at a recent check-up.
Director of Veterinary Services for the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, Denise Dietsch D.V.M. showed me the toll tartar build up has taken on my tiny pet. Dr. Dietsch was not surprised at the damage; she says dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats, affecting 91 percent of dogs and 85 percent of cats over the age of 3.
If your pet has bad breath be aware it is most likely due to tartar buildup on the teeth, which often leaves odor-producing bacteria behind. Small bits of food can remain in your pet’s mouth and these particles create an environment where oral bacteria flourish.
There are other indications your cat or dog could be suffering from dental problems:
• Difficulty chewing
• Decreased appetite
• Increased salivation
• Changes in food preferences
Dental issues range from mild inflammation and tartar, to significant inflammation and tooth loss. Left untreated, severe dental issues can lead to bacterial infections that can spread through the bloodstream and damage other organs including the heart, kidneys and liver.
Professional dental assessments and cleanings are important for pets. There are also some daily treatments at home aimed at prevention:
• Dental chews
• Specially formulated food to combat tartar
• A schedule of regular pet teeth brushing- daily or at least three times a week