“Maintaining pet oral health can help reduce the risks of many issues that can prolong their life,” says Dr. Christine Newman, owner of Harlingen Veterinary Clinic in Belle Mead, N.J.

Inside the issue

Harmful types of bacteria hiding in the mouth are suspected to increase the risk of kidney disease, heart problems and could even complicate diabetes. A glimpse into your pet’s mouth by a professional can also lead to early detection of cancerous tumors.

According to the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats will have some evidence of periodontal disease by their third birthday that could benefit from professional therapies.

STAY FRESH: By looking after your pet's oral health, you're not only helping to prolong their life, but also to extend the amount of nose-to-nose time with your furry friend.

A veterinarian is the best first line of defense because they can gauge oral exams at yearly checkups. When deemed beneficial, veterinarians perform evaluation and treatments under anesthesia so the pet stays still, ensuring safety for both the animal and the physicians.

Healthy habits

Red flags you can look for on your own include pet odor—making it unbearable to go “nose to nose” with your furry pal—along with bleeding from the mouth, decreased appetite, dropping food or messy eating, avoidance of drinking cold water and swelling of the jaw or under the eyes.

Daily brushing with a pet friendly toothpaste (not a human version, which can be toxic) is recommended along with the use dry pet food, low-fat animal treats and other products designed to enhance pet oral health.