AVMA: “Doggie breath” could be a sign of serious disease

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Celebrate National Pet Dental Health Month this February by scheduling an exam for your pets

Does your sweet pet have sour breath? A bad odor coming from the mouths of your pets could be more than a nuisance; it could signify a serious health risk with the potential to damage not only your pets' teeth and gums but their internal organs as well.

To address the importance of oral health care for pets, the AVMA is sponsoring National Pet Dental Health Month in February. AVMA President Dr. John de Jong says regular dental exams are an integral and primary component of a pet's overall health care, and can help prevent more serious health problems.

"Oral disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for our pets," said Dr. de Jong. "In addition to causing receding gums, tooth loss and significant pain, bacteria in the mouth enters the bloodstream, potentially affecting the heart, liver and kidneys, which can be life threatening."

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease by the age of three, often indicated by bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face and mouth, and depression.

In addition to professional dental care, Dr. de Jong advises pet owners to make oral home care part of their pet's routine as a way to prevent tooth decay.

Although daily tooth brushing is advised for dogs and cats, a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry showed that only 2 percent of dog owners follow through with this practice. In addition, a survey of pet owners showed that only 14 percent of dogs and 9 percent of cats receive dental care at the veterinarian's office. Pet owners can work with their veterinarians to begin a pet dental care routine at home in addition to regular dental exams and professional dental cleanings.

To learn more about dental care for pets, including causes and signs of oral health problems in pets and an instructional video on brushing pets' teeth, visit avma.org/PetDental.

About the AVMA

Serving more than 105,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.