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5 Ways to Keep Your Pet's Teeth and Gums Healthy for Life

- Provided by VetStreet.com

February is Dental Health Month, which means it's time to lavish some attention on your pet's teeth. It's important to take proper care of canine and feline teeth, because if left untreated, plaque and tartar buildup can progress to painful periodontal disease. The bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to other organs and cause illnesses. More than 85 percent of cats and dogs over four years old are affected by periodontal disease — you don't want your four-legged companion to become part of that alarming statistic.

Here are five steps to help your pet's teeth and gums remain healthy:

1. Beware of Bad Breath

If a musky scent is coming from Fluffy's mouth, don't ignore it. This could be a warning sign that she has periodontal disease or another oral disease such as stomatitis, a common feline condition that causes painful inflammation of the gums and mouth tissues.

Other dental-health warning signs include bleeding gums, yellow or brown teeth, pawing at the mouth, and loose or missing teeth.

2. Brush Your Pet's Teeth

While it might be difficult at first, with enough patience and plenty of yummy rewards, you can turn tooth brushing into a bonding experience with your dog or cat. It might take several weeks to train your four-legged friend to warm up to the toothbrush, so start by letting her smell the toothbrush and pet toothpaste, then gradually work your way to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of her mouth at least every other day. By the way, human toothpaste isn't safe for pets, so be sure to use a product approved for your pet.

If you're scared your dog or cat will bite you, ask your veterinarian for alternative tartar-control options.

3. Consider Dental Toys, Treats and Food

While it's not as effective as brushing your pet's teeth, giving her treats, toys and food specifically designed to promote oral health will help her maintain healthy gums and teeth. Check for the Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council to make sure that whatever alternative you choose meets the standards for effective plaque and tartar control. 

4. Ask Your Vet for a Dental Exam

Humans aren't the only ones who need their chompers checked by a professional; your four-legged friend needs to have her teeth and gums checked by a veterinarian. During the dental exam, the vet will first take your pet's medical history, then ask if you've noticed any dental health warning signs such as bad breath. Next, he'll examine your pet, including checking the head and neck for any abnormalities. Finally, he'll check out your pet's teeth and gums for redness, bleeding and inflammation. He'll also be on the lookout for tooth loss, cracked teeth, plaque and tartar, as well as potentially cancerous lumps and bumps.

A cursory dental exam can usually be performed without sedation, unless your pet becomes aggressive or his teeth are very painful. For a complete dental evaluation, though, your pet will have to go under. 

5. Don't Let Anesthesia Stop You From Getting a Dental Cleaning

To thoroughly examine your pet's teeth and gums, properly get rid of nasty plaque and tartar, and really clean your pet's pearly whites, he'll need to be anesthetized. Though sedating your dog or cat sounds scary, it's not as bad as it sounds — in fact, the procedure has never been safer or more comfortable. Before your vet even begins anesthesia, he may recommend prescreening tests to help ensure that your pet is healthy enough for the procedure.

When you think about it, the benefits of dental cleaning outweigh the possible risks of anesthesia. When Fluffy wakes up, her breath will smell better, and her teeth will be shinier and healthier. And as an extra bonus, maintaining healthy teeth and gums helps protect the body's other organs, like the heart and kidneys, from the damaging effects of dental disease.

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General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.

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