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February is Pet Dental Month

By: Alex Lieber

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Bad breath in a cat is often dismissed simply as "kitty breath." In fact, it may signal periodontal disease, which is the most common ailment suffered by dogs and cats over 3 years old. Preventing periodontal disease can result in longer, healthier lives for pets.

To educate owners of this, February has been designated National Pet Dental Month by the American Veterinary Medical Society, the American Veterinary Dental Society and Hill's Pet Nutrition.

Unfortunately, dental care is often ignored by owners. One survey notes that just 1 out of 10 owners makes sure their pets' teeth are cared for. Although dogs and cats rarely get cavities, the plaque and tartar that do form can cause gingivitis and periodontal disease. This can lead to tooth decay, bleeding gums and tooth loss. The bacteria that causes all this can travel through the bloodstream and eventually damage the major organs.

Proper pet dental care begins with a trip to the veterinarian for a dental exam, which should be done once a year. If your sees plaque or tartar buildup, a cleaning may be necessary.

Afterwards, it is important to begin a home dental program. This is easier done when your pet is very young, so he or she is used to brushing. Nutritional supplements and specially formulated foods designed to remove buildup is also effective. Look for the "Seal of Acceptance of the Veterinary Oral Health Council" on foods to determine if they meet the defined standards for plaque and tartar control.

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