Why Brush? The Importance of Oral Hygiene for Your Pets

Sinking Your Teeth into Oral Hygiene

We all want our dogs and cats to be happy and healthy.  We make sure they are up to date on shots.  We spay/neuter them (if you are wondering what this has to do with their health, we recommend this page for a good overview.).  We stick to our veterinarian’s guides about what and how much they should eat.  We walk or play with them to make sure that they get their exercise.

But what about their teeth?  Do pets need to have their teeth brushed?  Do they need regular dental checkups just like we do?  Of course!

How and how often will be explored in future posts. But for now, we’ll address ‘Why?’ 

Catch Their Breath: First Warning Sign

Many of us become aware of our pets’ oral hygiene because of their breath. Dogs and cats will not have the fresh, minty breath that we humans strive for.  Breath that smells particularly bad or different for no known reason is something to pay attention too.

Teething Problems: Dental Effects

Dental hygiene in pets keeps their teeth healthy.  Dogs can get cavities, but more commonly they suffer from lesions on the gums or dental fractures.  Cats suffer from gum disease as well.  These are painful and can lead to absesses requiring surgery.

On the Tip of Your Tongue: Beyond the Mouth

It isn’t just the teeth and gums though.  The first problem is that your pet may experiencing pain which can lead to them not eating.  This can be very dangerous for cats, as severe or sudden weight loss can cause serious liver complications, as well as exacerbate diseases such as diabetes.

In addition, toxins from periodontal disease are absorbed into the blood stream.  These toxins can cause oral cancers, but the toxins also travel in the blood stream to the kidneys, liver, heart and brain.  “Some oral diseases can be associated with feline retroviral diseases such as feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency (FIV)”.*

The good news is that you can prevent this suffering in your pets and other animals you care for.  Keep coming back to see the rest of the series.

*Quimby Jessica M, Elston T, Hawley J, Brewer M, Miller A, and Lappin M.  “Evaluation of the association of Bartonella species, feline herpesvirus 1, feline calicivirus, feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus with chronic feline gingivostomatitis”.  Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.  10(2008): 66-72 as quoted by Chelsea Sonius in Feline Oral Health at http://zimmer-foundation.org/sch/csa.html, accessed November 28, 2013.