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Helping Clients Pick a Pet Dental Care Routine

Periodontal Disease
 
The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, in Lansing, Michigan, has issued guidelines for vet techs to assist clients and pets with home dental care (www.navta.net). Pet owners do not understand the importance of brushing their pet"s teeth, likely because they grew up with a dog or cat whose teeth were ignored. The regimen chosen by the owner for their pet is vital to controlling plaque and tartar. For pets, the mouth is the window to the soul ... the mouth tells so much about the health of the animal. Oral problems are not only physically painful for pets, but also lead to psychological problems. Pet owners notice their four-legged friends withdraw and become depressed when teeth loss and periodontal disease occur.
 
Both cats and dogs are susceptible to periodontal illness. Periodontal disease is caused by bacteria, which left untreated leads to tooth loss, eating habit changes, and unwillingness to groom. Periodontitis is NOT the same as gingivitis, which can be cured with proper treatment of the plaque. Periodontitis is not curable ... it must be proactively treated by the pet owner. The bacteria cause inflammation and infection, and will require ongoing treatment both at home and at the veterinary office.
 
What"s the Treatment Plan?
 
While they may be resistant, pets need to have their teeth brushed because it is an inexpensive way to get highly effective plaque control. Vet techs can explain to clients that just as humans wouldn"t go without teeth brushing, pets cannot afford to go without it. Pet owners should find a brush appropriate for their pet, and brush the gums at a 45 degree angle in a circular motion. Ideally the care should begin early on in the pet"s life. An older pet can grow accustomed to the mouth contact if the owner begins by simply touching its lips for several days, gradually working a toothbrush into the mouth as the pet gets more comfortable.
 
Dry foods are preferable over moist foods, but most pet treats do not have the dental benefits they claim to have. Vet techs can use chlorhexidine, zinc, fluoride, and/or sealants at check-ups as a proven means to control plaque. With vigilant teeth care at home and at vet visits, the pet can live a longer, healthier life.

By Chris Navarro
Get Veterinary Technician Jobs, Contributing Editor

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