Vail Pet Talk column: February is National Pet Dental Health Month; schedule an exam |

Vail Pet Talk column: February is National Pet Dental Health Month; schedule an exam

As I drove away from my office yesterday, I thought to myself, I really love my profession because I love to make a difference in the lives of pets and their owners on a daily basis.

This particular day was relevant because I was able to provide dental care for a cat who was obviously going to suffer from the side effects of dental disease, and what a difference I could make for her, as I identified and removed the diseased teeth. I recognized she had pain, and I had the foresight to see she could suffer from systemic disease, if I did not take good care of her mouth.

I felt this story was appropriate because February is National Pet Dental Health Month. During this month, veterinarians locally and around the country provide free dental exams and reduced-rate dental cleanings for pets to encourage better dental hygiene, which leads to overall better pet health.

Take note of bad breath

There are many reasons to have your pet's teeth cleaned. First of all, pets don't generally always have bad breath. So if you notice your pet's breath odor has changed, there could potentially be a problem tooth that needs to be addressed.

Secondly, your pet could have dental pain and you may not even know it. Even though you may open your pet's mouth and it all looks OK to you, a complete dental exam, as well as a thorough dental cleaning, allows the veterinarian to carefully identify problem areas and perform deep cleaning around the teeth and probe the gums for pockets, which represent decay and, ultimately, disease in the bone around the tooth. Remember, your pets can't always tell you they hurt.

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Dangerous Bacteria

Third, dental disease can lead to systemic infections. Significant dental disease in the mouth can allow dangerous bacteria to enter the bloodstream and cause life-threatening systemic illness affecting the heart, lungs, kidneys and bones.

Finally, dental disease can complicate other disease processes. For example in diabetes, it is difficult to regulate a pet's sugar level. If a pet has to fight an infection in its mouth, then it becomes more difficult for it to fight infections in other areas.

So take advantage of National Pet Dental Health month and schedule your pet for its dental exams to have a healthier pet overall.

Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.