February 2018 – Connecting Pet Dental Disease to Heart Disease
Heart disease affects pets of all ages. For example, certain breeds of dogs and cats are at a higher risk of heart disease at a young age. In contrast, some pets develop heart disease later in life concurrent with another illness. Finally, there are those pets who randomly develop heart disease at any age without any noticeable signs to the pet parent. One thing is for certain – studies have shown there is a connection between poor oral health and heart disease.
Oral Disease isn’t just about your pet’s mouth, breath, or teeth.
Undiagnosed and untreated dental infections can spread microscopically throughout the entire body. Studies in pets (and people) indicate that periodontal disease can actually directly damage internal organs, including the heart, liver, and kidneys. The constant presence of bacteria spreading directly into the bloodstream through inflamed and compromised gums and tooth roots can actually create valvular heart disease, pancreatic disease, or lead to worsening systemic inflammatory conditions, blood infections, and eventual sepsis and even sudden death. This is especially true in older pets, and there is undeniable risk for pet owners and pets who wait too long to seek proper dental care.
Dental Health and Heart Health go hand-in-hand
Most pet dental disease occurs below the gums where you can’t see it. However, you and your vet can make an educated guess of what may be going on under the gum line by “flipping the lip” and taking a good look in the mouth. Your veterinarian will help you gain a better understanding of what stage your pet’s teeth are in. Scheduling yearly dental exams with your veterinarian is essential for your pet.
During your pet’s dental exams we can show you how to care for and brush your pet’s teeth. Brushing is the single most effective thing you can do to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between dental cleanings. There are also VOHC approved dental foods and treats that we can recommend to help promote better dental health throughout the year. We want to help you be more proactive in caring for your pet’s mouth so that we can reduce the need for longer and more extensive professional cleanings and surgical procedures.
Your veterinarian will also listen with a stethoscope during your pet’s exam to make sure your pet’s heart sounds right and there is no heart murmur and/or arrhythmia. We can also perform a few other easy tests, such as a proBNP test, to make a further diagnosis. A proBNP test can help establish a baseline of the condition of a dog or cat’s heart without the added expense of performing an echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound).
Older pets need more dental care – not less.
Senior pets greater than seven years of age are at a much higher risk for developing painful mouth conditions. As pets age, they also develop many genetic chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease. Older pets can still enjoy a good quality of life if we are proactive in keeping them as far away from infection as possible, including dental disease. All of these senior age conditions that arise are easier to manage if pet parents keep up with daily home care and professional teeth cleanings as needed.
Show your pets how much you care.
Let your family veterinarian take care of your pet’s heart and oral needs. Do your best not to skip your pet’s annual wellness visit for the sake of their heart.
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