It’s a fact that one of the most common diseases seen by veterinarians today is dental disease. In fact, it is such a problem that each year, the entire month of February is devoted to promoting dental health and procedures for pets.
Poor dental health not only creates severe oral discomfort for our pets, but also leads to a host of other systemic and potentially very severe health conditions. The tartar that builds up in a cat or dog’s mouth is home to millions of bacteria. As the gums get infected, they allow this bacteria to be seeded into the bloodstream, causing a septicemia. This blood-borne bacteria then gets caught in the capillary beds of internal organs, and sets up infection in those organs. Multiple studies have shown that upwards of 80% of infections in liver, kidneys, and even the heart are caused by dirty teeth and unhealthy gums.
While it is easy to overlook your pet’s dental care, it’s absolutely essential for pet owners to provide appropriate dental care in order to protect the teeth and gums, as well as help to prevent secondary effects on these internal organs.
Common Signs of Dental Disease in Pets
Of course, prevention is always the best option regarding any health condition. However, it’s important for pet owners to know the warning signs that indicate dental disease has already begun to set in. Here are a few of the most common symptoms of dental disease in pets:
- Red and/or irritated gums. Check your pet’s gums from time to time for redness, swelling, or bleeding.
- A buildup of plaque or tartar on the teeth. Oftentimes this tartar builds heaviest on teeth furthest back in the mouth, where checking the teeth can be difficult, especially on some animals that really resist it.
- Change in saliva. Though many different things can lead to a change in normal salivation, take note of excessive drooling or discoloration. If you notice these signs, notify your veterinarian to have your pet’s teeth checked.
- Bad breath. We are all familiar with “dog breath”. Even under the best conditions, you aren’t likely to enjoy the way your pooch’s mouth smells, and that’s okay! However, if there is a lingering offensive odor that you believe is cause for concern, a full dental exam is in order.
- Wear and Tear. Visual wear and tear on teeth comes with age in any species, but broken or missing teeth can be signs of a bigger problem with your pet’s gums or teeth.
- Loss of Appetite. A lot of issues can cause your dog to stop eating, all of which should be discussed with your veterinarian immediately. Regarding dental care, pets (especially dogs) will stop chewing food or toys when their teeth hurt.
The onset of symptoms such as these will likely mean that your pet needs professional veterinary dental care. Remember that the longer you wait, the more your pet suffers.
If there is a buildup of plaque on your pet’s teeth, your vet will probably want to do a routine dental cleaning. This involves the veterinarian putting your dog under anesthesia and doing a detailed plaque and tartar removal. Besides these cleanings, there are a lot of things you can do, as a pet owner to maintain his healthy teeth and gums and prevent any further deterioration. Your vet will probably suggest that you also practice good oral hygiene at home. He or she will likely recommend dental care products such as canine toothbrushes, toothpaste, and even mouth wash. When you do dental care at home, always keep an eye out for the warning signs mentioned earlier.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Where prevention of dental disease is concerned, veterinary holistic medicine offers a variety of very safe and effective herbal remedies that you can use to protect your pet’s oral health. One of the most exciting things about herbal medicine is that the herbs we use are often extremely versatile and offer a range of benefits (in addition to your targeted purpose for using them).
- Dill – This herb is widely used in culinary preparations, and it has a very recognizable smell and taste. However, many people are unaware of its antimicrobial properties. Dill has very potent antibacterial characteristics and is effective in the treatment of a variety of oral infections.
- Parsley – This herb is another favorite among American chefs, and it can be easily grown in your own herb garden. It is commonly used as a breath freshener, and just like Dill, it has potent antimicrobial properties. Parsley can be extremely useful in preventing oral infections and making your pet’s breath less offensive.
- Fennel – The oil and dried seeds of this herb are used for a variety of ailments, including digestive issues, respiratory infections, and even in the treatment of snake bites. With regard to dental care, its anti-inflammatory properties make it extremely effective in addressing swelling and bleeding of the gums.
Other herbal remedies used for the prevention of dental disease in pets include Echinacea, Calendula, Oregon Grape, and a variety of antioxidant supplements.