February marks National Pet Dental Health Month

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

As warmer weather approaches in coming months, pet owners can enjoy afternoons of frolicking with their pets &8212; assuming that their pets are healthy and in good shape.

February marks National Pet Dental Health Month.

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Youngblood, who has been in the veterinary field for more than 38 years, said in earlier years, little to nothing was done to treat or raise awareness about the connection between dental hygiene and heart disease in pets, especially small dogs.

Bad dental hygiene can lead to heart disease over time. The accumulation of tartar on pets&8217; teeth can become calcified, and progress beyond the teeth and gumline, Youngblood said.

Bacteria leads to plaque. Plaque leads to tartar, and tartar can lead to calculus. All of these substances irritate the gums, leaving them tender, red, and swollen, according to a report published by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The inflamed gums can separate from the teeth, leaving pockets in which more bacteria can be housed. This infection can get into the bloodstream and can lead to congestive heart failure in pets.

Youngblood recommends dog owners feed their pets hard food, instead of canned, chewy, or soft food. &8220;The crunching of the food tends to help the teeth clean,&8221; Youngblood said.

For cats, Youngblood recommends dry food. Cats are more susceptible to cavities, whereas dogs are more susceptible to gum disease, Youngblood said.

In addition, there are things pet owners can do to keep their pets&8217; teeth clean, including feeding them &8220;Greenies,&8221; popular dog and cat treats; using sprays; and employing a tartar-control diet.