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A hand petting a dog's head.

Be kind to your pet--take it in for regular dental checkups.

It's National Pet Dental Health Month

From eNews, February 9, 2006

Oral disease is the No. 1 health problem diagnosed in dogs and cats, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society. Without proper dental care, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age three, and only 3 percent of dogs and 1 percent of cats get treatment.

"Animals can suffer the same kinds of dental problems as humans, including infection, severe pain, and fractured teeth," says Gary Goldstein, head of the dental service at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center, which is one of only four veterinary schools in the nation with a full-time dental practice. Fortunately, he adds, pet owners can help prevent dental disease in their pets by providing dental care.

"Dental care for animals is similar to dental care for humans, only animals can't brush their own teeth," says Goldstein. To prevent dental problems, he recommends:

All pets are at risk for developing dental problems, so it is important to check your pet's mouth and teeth often for warning signs, such as bad breath; tartar buildup on the teeth; swollen, receding, or bleeding gums; fractured or abscessed teeth; and a change in eating habits. Take your pet to the veterinarian if any of these symptoms are present. They could be a signs of a serious dental health problem.

"Proper dental care is critical to a pet's overall good health," says Goldstein. "If oral infections such as periodontal diseases are left untreated, they can travel through the bloodstream and damage internal organs."

Goldstein is one of only two board-certified dentistry veterinarians in Minnesota. He and his staff provide routine cleaning and examinations, along with a variety of specialty services such as orthodontics, surgery, and disease treatment.

For more information about dentistry services at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center or to schedule a dental appointment for your pet, call 612-625-1919 or visit the College of Veterinary Medicine.