We love our pets regardless, but catch a whiff of their stinky breath and even the most animal-loving human will probably shy away from a smooch!

It's fair to say keeping on top of our pets' dental health isn't always top of mind. However it's important to remember that because our pets can't tell us about the pain they are in, us owners are often left unaware that they are suffering. And just like humans, our pets' oral health is a vital part of their overall optimum health, so it's best not to ignore bad breath as this can be a sign that your pet has some serious health issues going on.

Research shows that by the age of 2, four out of five pets have dental disease. Maintaining oral health is important as gum disease can not only cause pain and may lead to more serious illnesses from the bacteria in the mouth getting in the bloodstream causing heart, liver and kidney disease. What we feed our pets, whether or not we take good care of their oral hygiene at home and through regular check-ups will determine what condition their pearly whites are in and ultimately their overall wellbeing.

Veterinarian at Tauranga Vets Dr Kate Heller says most of the dental problems that pets encounter are due to plaque.

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"Over time this becomes tartar, which can cause inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. This can progress to periodontal disease which damages the tooth's supporting structures. This causes the tooth to rot and also leaves your pet in pain. Other symptoms of dental disease include bad breath from infection, dribbling and bleeding gums," she says.

However there's good news. Dental disease is progressive but it can be managed with a dental scale and polish treatment at your local vet clinic.

"Brushing your pet's teeth regularly is the most effective way to prevent plaque building up. Dental diets, oral chews and mouth gels are easy to use and work to 'brush' and 'floss' your pet's teeth. We also recommend starting routine oral care while our pets are still young, when dental disease is not yet present," says Kate.

"Just like our own oral health, the key to managing dental disease is prevention," she adds.

A combination of the following steps is your best guard in preventing dental disease;
• Annual health and dental checks.
• Professional dental cleaning under anaesthetic.
• Scientifically proven dental diets.
• Appropriate dental chews.
• Tooth brushing with pet toothpastes (most effective homecare if done daily).

If your pet has not had a dental health check in the last year, it's a good idea to make an appointment with your vet.
Tauranga, TePuna, Katikati and Papamoa Vets are offering a dental promotion through October and November, including a free dental health check with one of our vet nurses.
Call today to book 0800 838 7267.

—July is a writer and pet owner also living and breathing the veterinary industry in her role at Tauranga Vets