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If you’re wondering why your pet’s breath smells bad, it could be periodontal disease going untreated, the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs.

But it is preventable with just a few extra steps taken by pet owners to initiate better oral health with their pets. Dr. Marjory Artzer is an assistant professor of small animal dentistry with the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. She says pets, like humans need to have their teeth brushed daily.

“The more you can do, the better it is because you’re just washing the daily plaque away, just like for you and I to prevent disease as well,” she said.

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. While your pet might not like brushing their teeth initially, Dr. Artzer says the important thing is to go slow and develop a daily routine.

“You can start by wrapping a thin washcloth around your finger and wiping their teeth and if you just start up front and wipe the fronts and then move your way to the back. Then you can slowly work your way to a toothbrush,” she said.

It’s important when establishing a tooth brushing routine with your pet that you reward them for it to ensure it becomes a habit.

The first sign of gum disease is swollen gums that might be pink and bleed. If that happens, it’s recommended your pet sees a veterinarian for immediate treatment.

Most dental disease occurs below the gum line where it can’t be seen, which can lead to infection that can damage teeth, roots and the tissue connecting teeth to the jawbone. When left untreated it can also lead to more serious health problems. Since pets can’t tell you they’re in discomfort, Artzer says most pet owners won’t realize there’s an issue until they smell it on their dog or cat’s breath.

“That’s an obvious sign when they’re greeting you and you notice it, that’s when they need their teeth addressed,” she said.

Having an annual checkup for your dog with a veterinarian can also help prevent dental issues and help indicate if a pet has any broken teeth, a common occurrence, especially in dogs.

“If the tooth is broken where the center part of the tooth, the pulp is exposed in their mouth, which is often the case, then you have a nerve that is just exposed right into the oral cavity and quite painful,” she said.

That oral cavity is supposed to have abundant bacteria and does, but as soon as a tooth is broken, that’s a way for the bacteria to climb into that tooth and cause chronic infection.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, up to 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old.

The K-State College of Veterinary Medicine performs routine dentistry in small animals including tooth extractions, root canals and crowns. Animals are put under anesthetics when treated and are often able to be released the same day of a procedure.

To learn more about the treatments available at the KSU College of Veterinary Medicine visit,


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