• Your pet's bad breath is no laughing matter

    ? Most people brush their teeth every day, but far fewer of us remember to do the same for our pets. This February, during Pet Dental Health Month, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is reminding pet owners that bad breath can be a sign of serious health problems.

    "Periodontal disease is the most common health problem that veterinarians find in pets," explains Dr. Ren? Carlson, president of the AVMA. "It's estimated that by the age of two, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease."

    The AVMA recommends that pet owners brush their pets' teeth every day, or at least several times a week. The cost of a toothbrush and pet toothpaste is far less than treatments for dental disease, which can include x-rays, teeth cleaning and tooth extraction.

    To help pet owners prevent periodontal disease, the AVMA, a sponsor of Pet Dental Health Month, offers an informative video providing step-by-step instructions on how to brush your pet's teeth. The Pet Dental Health Month website, www.petdental.com, includes tips from veterinary experts on pet dental health.

    "Untreated periodontal infections often lead to more serious health problems because of chronic pain and infection, and subsequent stress on the immune system," says Dr. Carlson. "These untreated conditions can then lead to heart valve disease, kidney disease, and even diabetes and cancer, not to mention the significant discomfort associated with dental infections. The AVMA is encouraging all dog and cat owners to take steps to control plaque on their pets' teeth and bring their pets into their veterinarian for regular dental checkups."

    While regular dental checkups are essential to help maintain your pet's dental health, there are a number of signs that dental disease has already started in your pet's mouth. If you find any of the symptoms below, take your pet into your veterinarian as soon as you can:

    Bad breath?Most pets have breath that is less than fresh, but if it becomes truly repugnant, that's a sign that periodontal disease has already started.
    Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and mouth.
    Reluctance to eat hard foods.
    Red swollen gums and brownish teeth.

    Finally, while any dog can develop periodontal disease, some pets do seem more prone to it. For example, studies have shown that smaller dog breeds?like toy poodles, Yorkshire terriers and dachshunds?can be more vulnerable to dental disease.

    For more information, please visit www.avma.org.

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