(KCBS) – February is Dental Health Month. What should we know about our pet’s teeth?

“Well, a great place to start is knowing how many teeth they should have,” said Jennifer Scarlett, DVM, co-president of the San Francisco SPCA. “Unlike humans, who have 32 teeth, dogs have a little bit more. They have 42 and cats have less, they have 30. And then we get down to rabbits, which are interesting because they have continuously growing teeth and they have 28.”

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What sorts of dental problems are identified in pets?

“In the young animals, we often times see retained deciduous teeth,” Scarlett explained. “Just like us, cats and dogs have baby teeth that they should lose as they age. And particularly in small dogs, Yorkies, Maltese, we’ll see them retain their canine teeth and those need to be pulled out because they crowd and cause problems.”

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“And then as animals get older, they don’t hold a toothbrush very well, so a lot of times we see tarter and plaque build up that causes gingivitis and we have to clean their teeth.”

Preventative care helps.

“Early on, it’s good to have your veterinarian perform an oral exam,” she suggested. “And see if there are any malocclusions, does the mouth fit okay? Any retained deciduous teeth and then teach you how to brush your animal’s teeth. Now, that’s easier said than done, particularly in a cat, and there are also some veterinarian-approved treats that can help decrease the amount of plaque and tartar buildup.”

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