If Our Pets Could Talk

By Jackie Kellum

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Your pet like yourself needs to have their mouth checked regularly for any gum or teeth problems. Most times pet owners only notice or think about their pet’s mouth until they smell their breath, and especially if the reaction is Yikes!

Some pet studies have shown that an estimated 85% of dogs over age 4 suffer from some form of periodontal disease. Nearly 70% of cats 3 years and older have signs of periodontal disease. This condition can result in pain, bleeding gums, bad breath, gingivitis and ultimately tooth loss.

Pet oral hygiene is an often-overlooked but an important factor in your pet’s overall health. Poor oral hygiene can cause systemic bacterial infections especially affecting the heart (Endocarditis) and liver, as well as causing diabetes. It can also lead to a fractured tooth or a broken jaw, especially in smaller pets. Because many of our pets are stoic, you may not even realize there’s a problem until it is a major situation.

The most effective way to prevent these conditions is to maintain an oral hygiene regimen, which should include a monthly oral examination. This exam should include (a) looking into your pet’s mouth, smelling his breath, see if the gums are a healthy pink without redness, inflammation, chipped teeth, bleeding, ulcers, or teeth discoloration. Also notice if he is having problems eating, drooling, difficulty swallowing, pawing at the face, swelling on the face, or changes to your pet’s eating patterns or weight. If anything is found to be abnormal or changed, take your pet to your Vet. for a more thorough examination. During your pet’s annual Vet. visit have your pet’s mouth thoroughly examined, and as needed cleaning of your pet’s teeth.

If your Vet should suggest that you brush your pet’s teeth, be aware you should not use human toothpaste, as it contains fluoride which is harmful to your pet. There are beef / chicken flavored toothpastes made suitable for pet use. I am not a Vet. nor an expert, but I have done a lot of research about this topic for this article. There are a lot of pet treats available to help deal with dog tartar build up.

All sites I found suggested use of raw bones as an option, with bone size appropriate for the size of the dog and its mouth. But, cooked bones of any kind were strongly warned against being used as they can splinter and puncture the esophagus or intestines. Chew toys such as Kong toys, Plaque Attackers, Nylabones, or Gumabones are options. Also mentioned were “Bully sticks” helping with chewing, and they are digestible, and “Greenies” and “DentaLife” for cats and dogs.

Many dog health websites that had no vested interest in promoting any particular products spoke about the dangers of using rawhide sticks / bones. This is a brief summary of these independent studies about rawhide as a chew treat: (a) They are a by-product of the leather industry, and is Not a food. Therefore, it is not covered by FDA pet food regulations, requiring information regarding its labeling, source and contents, processing information, and safe use requirements. (b) The leather hide must be processed and uses preservative chemicals, including arsenic, ethoxyquin, mercury, formaldehyde, BHA and BHT.

They may also contain other dangerous additives such as antibiotics, lead and insecticides. (c) When the hide becomes soft / gummy after initial chewing, it is No longer effective for reducing tooth tartar, and (d) The hide has a potential when pieces are swallowed of causing obstruction of the esophagus or intestines, possibly requiring surgery. Prevention is best, and knowing what you are putting in your pet’s mouth is important.

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