February is Pet Dental Health Month
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Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance, marks February as Pet Dental Health Month by reminding pet owners about the importance of regular dental care for their four-legged family members. In 2015, Nationwide members spent more than $13.8 million on pet dental conditions and procedures, the fourth most common type of pet insurance claim submitted to the company last year and a 13 percent increase from the previous year.
Preventive oral care is not only necessary for pets, it’s a financially sound choice for pet owners. In 2015, the average claim amount for pet teeth cleaning and polish was $177. In contrast, the average claim amount for treating dental-related disease was $214. Periodontal disease, a condition caused by residual food, bacteria and tartar that collect in the spaces between the gum and tooth, accounted for the most dental pet insurance claims received by Nationwide last year— more than 28,000. Tooth infections, inclusive of cavities and abscesses, accounted for the second most common dental-related claims, totaling more than 18,100. Infections of the teeth are typically the result of untreated tooth decay, cracked or fractured teeth, or severe periodontal disease.
Poor dental care can also be linked to severe health issues and shorter lifespans in dogs and cats. The bacteria associated with tartar buildup and periodontal disease can contribute to heart, liver and kidney problems.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), an organization dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by the age of three. Nationwide encourages pet parents to have their pets’ oral health evaluated bi-annually by a veterinarian.
“Regular veterinary examinations are critical because they include an oral health and dental evaluation, just like when we go to the dentist,” says Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide. “Your veterinarian may also recommend brushing your pets’ teeth between veterinary visits, with the goal of preventing a buildup of tartar along your pets’ gum line. Tartar can lead to inflammation or pain when the gums or mouth are touched, even during the simple process of eating.”
According to the AVMA, signs of dental disease in dogs and cats include:
- Red swollen gums or brownish-yellow tartar on teeth
- Bad breath
- Bleeding from the mouth
- Frequent pawing or rubbing at the face and/or mouth
- Reluctance to eat – for example, picking food up and then spitting it out
Pet Dental Health Fast Facts:
- Puppies have 28 temporary teeth that begin to show at about 3 to 4 weeks of age
- They have 42 permanent teeth that generally grow in between 5 to 7 months of age
- Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue among dogs
- Kittens have 26 temporary teeth that begin to show at about 2 to 3 weeks of age
- They have 30 permanent teeth that generally grow in by 5 to 6 months of age
- Other dental issues that are common in cats include tooth resorption and ulcerative stomatitis