When it comes to our pets, dental health care is one area that’s often overlooked. While we take care of our four-legged friends in many ways — ensuring they’re vaccinated, getting enough exercise, and eating well — we don’t pay the same attention to their dental care.

Yet dental disease is one of the most common health issues in dogs and cats. If left undetected and untreated, it can lead to an array of problems that can go beyond the mouth. Not only can your pet suffer from swollen gums, loose teeth and tooth loss, but the bacteria in their mouth can also have significant health impacts on the rest of their body, including their heart, liver, and kidneys.

Dental health care begins with prevention

Early signs of periodontal disease can include inflamed gums, bad breath, changes in eating habits such as avoiding hard food, difficulty eating, excessive drooling, and behavioural changes.

Dr. Lorraine Hiscox is the Owner of the Derry Road Animal Hospital in Mississauga and specializes in veterinary dentistry for dogs and cats. She wants pet-owners to take a more proactive approach with dental health.

“Prevention is key to keeping our pets’ oral health in check and it’s far more effective than treatment,” says Dr. Hiscox.

“But most people overlook this important part of their pet’s care and tend to think of dental health as something reserved for humans, and humans alone.”

How to keep oral disease at bay

Fortunately, periodontal disease is preventable and it starts at home with regular dental care. One of the most effective ways to fight plaque build-up at home is brushing, notes Dr. Hiscox. Three to four times a week with pet-friendly toothpaste should do the trick.

“Dental wipes are an easy way to clean the sensitive area where the gum meets the tooth,” recommends Dr. Hiscox. “Water additives and dental spray also help fight plaque, tartar, and freshen their breath.”

80 percent of dogs and cats will require some form of dental treatment by the age of two. Beyond at-home dental care, it’s important to schedule a professional cleaning with your family vet at least once a year. “Ensure your vet will perform oral radiography during the cleaning,” recommends Dr. Hiscox.

“It’s the only way to properly examine each tooth and assess for early signs of disease.”

It’s easy to help our furry friends avoid the pain, discomfort, and long-term health implications caused by periodontal diseases. We simply have to give the same care and attention to our pets’ dental health care as we do our own.