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PortWatch

February 8, 2013

Paw Prints: Tooth tips that will make Fido smile

February is a good time to admire your dog’s and cat’s pearly whites and rosy breath. Pets have teeth that need to be cared for, just as their owners do. To increase this awareness, February is Pet Dental Health Month.

Have you looked in your pet’s mouth? Do Fido’s and Fluffy’s gums and teeth look like yours? Is their breath pleasant and fresh? If you answered “no” to these questions, then read on. Here’s my Top 10 tooth tips and trivia:

1. How many teeth should your pet have?

This isn’t a pop quiz, so it’s OK to cheat and lift up your pet’s lip. Cats should have 30 teeth and dogs should have 42. Pets can have missing or extra teeth, and each can cause serious dental problems. Ask your veterinarian to count your pet’s teeth. This can be done during an outpatient exam.

2. Do cats and dogs have baby teeth?

Yes, our little pets have baby teeth. Those are the sharp, needle-like teeth that you feel when your puppy is gnawing on your toes. Baby teeth start falling out at 4 months of age. By 6 months, all of the adult teeth have erupted. This two-month period is an amazingly busy time for our pets’ mouths.

3. Do dogs and cats need braces?

Generally, no, although they can have abnormal bites. Abnormal bites are not just beauty issues. They cause chronic pain and infection.

Pugs, bulldogs and other short-nosed dogs are bred to have underbites. Persian cats can have this problem, too. Other breeds, such as German shepherds, are prone to overbites. Base narrow is another problem, when the lower fangs are deviated inwards. These pets can have oral ulcers and chronic pain from continually chomping down on their gums. Ouch.

The good news is that your pet doesn’t have to suffer in silence. If your veterinarian identifies this problem at the right age, inexpensive chew toys may correct the problem. For older pets, surgery can fix the painful bite.

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