In case you don’t know, February is National Pet Dental Health Month! Traditionally, we’ve thought of dental disease as a problem with older pets, but recent data indicates that 80% of dogs begin showing signs of dental problems by age 3 ad 70% of felines over 20 months of age have some degree of dental disease! The signs of dental disease can vary but may involve gingivitis (painful and inflamed gums), bad breath, and difficulty eating. These signs can progress to gum recession and eventually tooth loss. While this can affect any dog, small breed dogs are especially susceptible to this problem. The effects of dental disease are not limited to the mouth. Other organs such as liver, kidneys, heart, or joints may be affected by problems that start in the mouth.
At the heart of dental disease are millions of bacteria. These bacteria thrive in our mouths, as well as our pet’s mouths. Bacteria, along with food particles and mouth cells, form a sticky film on the teeth and under the gum line called dental plaque. This film is what we feel on our teeth after we drink a glass of orange juice or eat a creamy pasta dinner. Of course, people brush their own teeth every day and rinse their mouths with many special products to help remove this dental plaque. Most dogs and cats do not receive this same attention to oral care, which may result in poor oral hygiene, starting with bad breath, also known as halitosis.
Dental plaque does more than just cause bad breath. The bacteria that cause halitosis are living organisms. Not only do they feed and multiply, they produce waste products and toxins which are irritating to the gums, resulting in gingivitis.
Because the mouth and gums have a good blood supply, the pathogenic bacteria have the perfect window of opportunity to “hop” a ride into the blood stream, eventually causing bacterial infection of the heart valves, the kidneys, and even the joints.
It’s much easier and more effective to prevent dental disease than to treat it once it has progressed. Brushing the teeth and routine veterinary evaluations and cleaning (requiring general anesthesia to enable ultrasonic scaling of all surfaces of the teeth) are an essential part of preventing dental disease, but we can also offer a nutritional solution.
Believe it or not, the kind of food we feed our pets can make a major beneficial impact on dental health, where brushing often falls short. There are now diets available that now offer one or more of the following important oral hygiene benefits: mechanical, chemical, and antibacterial plaque and tartar reduction. Many of the Royal Canin formulas incorporate these unique dental benefits to promote oral health.
With the high frequency of dental disease in animals, oral hygiene is very important. Proper veterinary care and brushing at home help maintain dental health, but nutrition can also play a key role. The Bregman Vet group has taken an active approach by recommending diets with features that can help dramatically reduce plaque and tartar formation because the health of the mouth affects the health of the rest of the body.
“Royal Canin is not your average pet food company. Since our inception in 1967, we have been forerunners in health nutrition because we do things differently. We were different when we produced the first diet exclusively for large-breed dogs. Different when we developed Persian 30, the first diet tailor-made for a single breed. And different when we launched the first nutritional program for indoor cats.“
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