, Newburyport, MA


February 10, 2012

Paw Prints: Brush up on your pet's dental needs

February is National Pet Dental Health Month. This is a good time to increase awareness about our pets' dental care.

As Fido and Fluffy age, they have many of the same oral issues as their human counterparts. They can suffer from gingivitis, periodontal disease, tartar, broken teeth, root abscesses and a whole host of other painful conditions.

What about when pets are babies? Puppies and kittens have special dental considerations, just as children do.

Unless you watch closely, you may not be aware that your puppy or kitten's mouth is undergoing a rapid transformation. The tooth fairy won't make an announcement, and little Fido and Fluffy aren't going to tell you. You probably won't even find the loose baby teeth — they are usually swallowed or lost.

The first six months of life are busy for pet mouths. Like newborn human babies, puppies and kittens have no teeth at birth. Their deciduous, or baby, teeth erupt within the first month. They begin to fall out at four months.

But within two months, the baby teeth should be gone and all the adult teeth will have erupted. Your puppy or kitten is now barely 6 months old. Hopefully, nature will have taken its intended path and the adult bite will be perfect.

All too often, though, especially with the domesticated breeding of pets, some teeth will have problems. Sometimes, it's not significant. Other times, it can lead to painful conditions.

Some pets do not lose all their baby teeth. These are called retained deciduous teeth. The adult tooth emerges next to the corresponding baby tooth and causes crowding. The extra teeth increase the risk of oral trauma and periodontal disease.

Retained deciduous teeth are typically an inherited disorder and are most common in small-breed dogs. If you have a little dog, look at his teeth, especially the fangs. They should occur singly. If your dog has two adjacent, or double, fangs, he likely has retained deciduous teeth.

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