August is Pet Dental Health Month and pet owners are being encouraged to speak to their veterinarian about what they can do to ensure their pet maintains good oral health.

Dental disease is common in Australian pets. If left untreated, it can be painful and lead to serious health concerns.

Dr. Tara Cashman, a spokesperson for the AVA, said Pet Dental Month highlights the importance of good oral health in pets and its impact on the overall health of an animal. It also raises awareness of the need for yearly thorough dental exams performed by a veterinarian to identify any emerging dental issues.

“Dental disease occurs above and below the gum line. It’s extremely difficult to get a full picture of what’s going on in a pet’s mouth when it is conscious because disease below the gum line can’t be seen.

“To properly examine, diagnose and treat dental disease in pets, it must be done by a veterinarian while the animal is anaesthetised. This ensures the experience is a positive one for the pet because it is unaware of pain during the procedure and does not need to be physically restrained.

“A general anaesthetic also ensures the veterinarian can complete a thorough inspection of every single tooth above and below the gum line and address any problems on the spot. This is not possible to do effectively on a fully conscious patient,” Dr Cashman said.

In its early stages, gum disease or gingivitis is reversible. However, if left undetected it may progress to periodontitis which can impact heavily on a pet’s quality of life. The longer it’s left untreated, the more painful it is for the pet, and the greater the risk of serious health consequences.

“It’s important that we address any oral health issues in pets as quickly as possible, and yearly thorough dental examinations by veterinarians are important in identifying and treating problems early,” Dr .Cashman said.

It’s not uncommon for pets with oral health issues to show no obvious clinical signs of dental disease; they often even continue to eat normally despite painful and advanced disease. Pet owners are encouraged to speak to their veterinarian about their pet’s dental health.